HARVARD STUDIES IN ENGLISH
IN CHAUCER AND GOWER
WILLIAM GEORGE DODD
IN CHAUCER AND GOWER
WILLIAM GEORGE DODD
BOSTON AND LONDON
GINN AND COMPANY, PUBLISHERS
COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY GINN AND COMPANY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
MAR 3 J 1956
GINN AND COMPANY PRO-
PRIETORS BOSTON U.S.A.
This work is a revision of a study originally made by the
writer while a student in the Graduate School of Harvard Uni-
versity. The limitation of the consideration to the so-called "love
paramours " made necessary the omission of much of Chaucer's
best and most interesting work. But even so, in what is left,
there is abundant opportunity for observing the poet's genius.
The romantic love in Chaucer, although it differs in no essential
respect from that treated by his predecessors and contemporaries
in France, becomes in his hands the material for an artistic
product of an entirely new sort. The very artistic excellence
of the work has sometimes led critics, the writer believes,
to wrong impressions of the love itself, and hence to wrong
assumptions not only as to the poet's purpose but also as to
his achievement. This fact may perhaps be considered sufficient
reason for the present study.
Readers nowadays, as a matter of course and, it would seem,
often conventionally, complain of the dullness of Gower. His
treatment of love does rrot make it possible for us to deny the
justice of such a complaint. At any rate, to the reader of early
erotic literature, he serves the useful purpose of showing by
contrast how brilliant may be a real poet's treatment of romantic
love. Some such purpose, it is hoped, the chapter on Gower
will serve in this study.
It is a pleasure to express my appreciation of the interest
shown in the progress of my work by my friends and teachers
of the Graduate School of Harvard University. In an especial
way, I am under obligation to Professor Kittredge. I began the
vi COURTLY LOVE
study at his suggestion, and while working at it I had the
opportunity of consulting him freely, and of receiving his criti-
cisms and suggestions. Students who have done work under
Professor Kittredge's direction, and perhaps only they, will
realize all that this means. In helping to revise the work and
to arrange it for the press, both he and Professor Robinson
have been most kind. They have made many valuable sugges-
tions which I have gladly adopted, and which I here gratefully
acknowledge. w Q D
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA, July i, 1913
THE SYSTEM OF COURTLY LOVE I
COURTLY LOVE IN THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE AND
LATER FRENCH WORKS 21
THE ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS .... 38
CINKANTE BALADES 39
CONFESSIO AMANTIS 42
THE ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS . . . 9 1
CONVENTIONAL LYRIC POEMS 92
THE COMPLAINT TO PITY 92
A COMPLAINT TO HIS LADY 93
THE COMPLAINT OF VENUS 95
AGAINST WOMEN UNCONSTANT 98
COMPLEINT D'AMOURS 99
A BALADE OF COMPLAINT 99
WOMANLY NOBLESSE 99
LYRICS SHOWING THE POET'S PERSONALITY 101
MERCILES BEAUTE A TRIPLE ROUNDEL IOI
BALADE TO ROSEMOUNDE IO2
THE COMPLAINT TO HIS PURSE 103
THE ENVOY TO SCOGAN I3
viii COURTLY LOVE
POEMS PART NARRATIVE AND PART LYRIC 105
THE COMPLAINT OF MARS 105
ANELIDA AND ARCITE IO7
THE EARLIER LOVE-VISION POEMS 108
THE BOOK OF THE DUCHESS IOQ
THE HOUSE OF FAME Il8
PARLIAMENT OF FOWLS 121
TROILUS AND CRISEYDE AND THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN 1 29
TROILUS AND CRISEYDE 1 29
THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN 2O8
THE CANTERBURY TALES 232
THE PROLOGUE 232
THE KNIGHT'S TALE 234
THE NONNE PREESTES TALE 246
THE SQUIERES TALE 247
THE FRANKLIN'S TALE 248
COURTLY LOVE IN CHAUCER
THE SYSTEM OF COURTLY LOVE
It is in the south of France and at a very early period that
we must look for the origin of the system of Courtly Love.
Gathered about several small courts, there existed, as early as
the eleventh century, a brilliant society, in which woman held
the supreme place, and in which, under her influence, vast im-
portance was attached to social etiquette and decorum. Definite
rules governed the sexes in all their relations, and especially in
matters of love. It was to this society that the troubadours be-
longed, and it was love, chiefly, that was the inspiration of their
songs. 1 In the troubadours, therefore, we find the earliest ex-
pression of the ideas of courtly love.
In time, these ideas were introduced into northern France,
largely through the influence of Eleanor of Aquitaine. This amo-
rous duchess took a lively interest in the doctrines, as well as
the practices, of courtly love. Before leaving her southern home
to become queen of France, she received, and, it seems, en-
couraged, advances of a very familiar nature from the troubadour
Bernart de Ventadorn. At the northern court, also, she lent
her authority to the new doctrines. In this she was followed
by her daughter, Marie of Champagne, and other noble ladies,
1 Romania, 1883, p. 521 ; G. Paris, La Literature Franfaise au Moyen Age,
3d ed., Paris, 1905, p. 199.
2 COURTLY LOVE
who amused themselves and the fashionable society about them
by rendering decisions on difficult questions which were argued
before the mock Courts of Love. 1 Naturally, such decisions
soon came to be regarded as definite rules and regulations of the
courtly system. Thus, in northern France, the new ideas of love
received from the first the sanction and support of women of
high rank, through whose influence they found their way into
contemporary literature. Marie of Champagne, for instance, im-
pressed them upon Chretien de Troies, and he, in turn, intro-
duced them into the romances of the Round Table. 2 Under his
hands, the Arthurian romances became the representatives par
excellence of the chivalrous and courtly ideal of twelfth-century
society. 3 His Conte de la Charrette, which reflects in an especial
manner the conceptions of the courtly love, owes its existence,
as he himself tells us, 4 to Marie of Champagne.
The ideas of love in the romances of Chretien are the ideas
found in the lyrics of the troubadours ; but in many instances
the genius of the French poet has transformed them into some-
thing peculiarly his own. The fancies and conceits of the earlier
poetry he elaborates highly ; mere hints he develops into formal
doctrines. He subjects the emotions of the human heart to
delicate and subtle analysis, and philosophizes upon them with
astonishing minuteness. The result of this process of refinement
was the formulation of certain doctrines, the observance of which
became equally obligatory upon courtly lovers and upon later
writers who dealt with the subject.
As the system was left by Chretien, so it was to remain. It
would be wrong, however, to suppose that the crystallizing of
the courtly sentiments was due to him alone. The process had
begun in the poetry of the troubadours. Even for them love
1 Mott, TJie System of Courtly Love, Boston, 1896, p. 57.
2 Paris, p. 202. 8 Ibid., p. 103.
4 Chretien de Troies, Conte de la Ckarrette, ed. W. Forster, Halle, 1899, U- I- 3 a
THE SYSTEM OF COURTLY LOVE 3
was an art to be practised rather than a passion to be felt. It
was largely a matter of behavior. To regulate his conduct in
strict accord with the rules and restrictions with which the art
was hedged about, became the lover's chief concern. Naturally,
the literature which drew its inspiration from such love was
devoid of spontaneity and real feeling. In the poetry of Bernart
de Ventadorn, it is true, there is to be found what seems to
be earnest passion ; but the writings of the troubadours after
Bernart are to a great extent characterized by artificiality and
monotony of sentiment. Through each poet's imitation of his
predecessor, the very emotional experiences of lovers became
stereotyped. 1 The exaggerations employed to give a semblance
of intensity to an artificial passion became poetical conventions.
It was with such material that Chretien worked. His contribu-
tion to the courtly system was the fixing of ideas already present
in twelfth-century literature, the development of others, and the
introduction of them all into the romances of the Round Table.
The interest in courtly love is nowhere more clearly mani-
fested than in certain works roughly contemporary with Chretien,
which treat of love as an art, setting forth in a scientific manner
the principles of the system and codifying the laws upon which
it was based. This method of treatment had its origin in the
erotic writings of Ovid, 2 the favorite poet of the mediaeval
schools. 3 His Ars Amatoria was several times translated into
French, curiously altered to suit the manners and customs of
mediaeval society, the sensualism of the original being newly
interpreted in accord with the chivalrous spirit. 4 Of the works
of this period which, following the plan of Ovid, treat of love
as an art, the most important is the De Arte Honest e Amandi
by Andreas Capellanus. 5 Here we have fully worked out the
1 Mott, p. 1 6. 2 Paris, p. 167. 8 Ibid., p. 83.
4 Paris, La Potsie du Moyen Age, ist Series, Paris, 1887, pp. 189 ff.
5 Ed. E. Trojel, Havniae, 1892.
4 COURTLY LOVE
jurisprudence of that courtly system which is exemplified in the
romances of the Round Table. 1 Andreas treats with scholastic
precision the following questions : What is love ? What are its
effects ? Between whom can it exist ? How is it acquired, re-
tained, augmented, diminished, terminated ? What is the duty
of one lover when the other proves unfaithful ? 2 He is chiefly
concerned, however, with showing whom the lover should choose
for his amie, how he may win her, and how her favor may be
retained. This threefold division was common with the medi-
aeval imitators of Ovid, 3 and is manifestly copied from the plan
of the Ars Amatoria.^ The second of his three questions
Andreas answers by means of eight imaginary conversations
between model lovers of various ranks. He also deals with the
love of clerks, monks, courtesans, and rustics ; he condemns
love which is acquired by means of money, as well as that
obtained with too little difficulty. Chapter seven of the second
book contains twenty-one decisions rendered by noble ladies, on
disputed points of love. 5 Chapter eight gives the thirty-one
1 Paris, La Litt. Fr. au M. A., p. 167. 2 Andreas, p. 3.
8 Paris, La Poesie du M. A., pp. 189 ff.
* W. A. Neilson, The Origin and Sources of the Court of Love ', Boston, 1899,
5 These decisions have been used as an argument in favor of the reality of
the so-called courts of love, by those who maintain that the courts were judicial
bodies, before which disputed points of love were carried for settlement. The
question was debated for many years after Diez disputed their reality in his
Ueber die Minnehbfe in 1825. The principal scholars of recent times who held
in favor of the reality of the courts, were E. Trojel in his Middelalderens
Elskovshoffer (Copenhagen, 1880) and P. Rajna in Le Corti d'Amore (Milan,
1890. Cf. also Tre Studi per la Storia del Libra di Andrea Cappellano in Studj
di Filologia Romanza, V, 193-272). The opposing view was strongly maintained
by G. Paris in the Journal de Savants, 1888, pp. 664 ff. and 727 ff., and in
Romania, XIX, 372. See also Neilson, pp. 240 ff. The latest contribution to
the discussion (which has flagged of late) is an article by G. Zonta, Rileg-
gendo Andrea Cappellano, in Studi Medievali, 1908, Fasc. I, in which he argues
with G. Paris against the reality of the courts of love. For a good summary
of the history of the controversy, see the article in Johnson's Encyclopedia,
v > 375-376, by A. R. Marsh, entitled " Courts of Love."
THE SYSTEM OF COURTLY LOVE 5
statutes which bear the stamp of authority of the god of Love
himself. Besides the thirty-one rules, there is also in the work
a short code of twelve which purport to have been revealed to a
knight in a vision of the Palace of Love. These two codes sum
up the whole doctrine of Andreas. His third and last book is
entitled De Reprobatione Amoris, and is modeled on Ovid's
Remedia. Throughout the work there are references to Eleanor
of Aquitaine, Ermengarde of Narbonne, and the Countess Marie
of Champagne, oftenest to the last named. Obviously it was
her theories which, to a large degree, inspired Andreas to write
his treatise. 1
The book of Andreas furnishes us a ready means of under-
standing the abstract principles and the laws underlying the
courtly system. 2 These principles, which are few in number, are :
1. Courtly love is sensual. Andreas makes this clear at the outset by
defining love as a passion arising from the contemplation of beauty in the
opposite sex, and culminating in the gratification of the physical desires
thus awakened. 3 On this definition the whole system rests. The insistence
with which the sensual element is dwelt upon throughout the book, con-
trasts strangely with the high ideals of conduct and character presented at
the same time. For this incongruity, however, Andreas is not responsible.
The love which was practised by the courtly society of southern France,
and which spread to the North, though essentially impure, was yet exalted
as uplifting and ennobling and productive of every virtue.
2. Courtly love is illicit and, for the most part, adulterous. Indeed,
in the courtly system marriage has no place. The Countess Marie is re-
ported by Andreas to have decided, in a disputed case, that " love cannot
1 Romania, 1883, pp. 521 ff.
2 A resume of the principles of the courtly love may be found in J. Bedier,
De Nicolao Museto, Paris, 1893, pp. 23 ff. He makes the statement: " All the
mediaeval lyric poetry takes its rise in a few principles." He then proceeds
to tell what these principles are, and, in so doing, mentions, in the main, the
points which appear in the following pages of this chapter.
3 " Amor est passio quaedam innata procedens ex visione et immoderata
cogitatione formae alterius sexUs, ob quam aliquis super omnia cupit alterius
potiri amplexibus et omnia de utriusque voluntate in ipsius amplexu amoris
praecepta compleri." Andreas, p. 3.
6 COURTLY LOVE
exist between two people joined together in the conjugal relation." 1 The
idea is again expressed, on the authority of the same Countess, in the ex-
cuse which a certain lover offers for seeking love out of wedlock, although
he has a beautiful wife whom he professes to love " totius mentis affectione
maritali." 2 In accord with these opinions, and probably based upon them,
is the first law of the longer code, which frankly states that a woman cannot
plead marriage as a sufficient excuse for denying a lover's petition. 3
3. A love, sensual and illicit, must needs be secret. The shorter code
lays this down as a law ; 4 and the longer adds, as the reason, that a love
which is divulged, rarely lasts. 5 No article of the code is so important as
this, and none is insisted upon so much. " Qui non celat, amare non potest." 6
He who reveals the secrets he should keep, is branded as a traitor to the
god of Love. Nothing is so despicable as to blab after having received
favors. But not only must love be secret ; it must also be furtive. It was
the element of furtiveness, largely, that made the courtly love incompatible
with the legal relations between husband and wife. The necessity of secrecy
gives rise in the literature to a constant fear of spies : a fear exaggerated,
no doubt, but not without foundation, if we may accept the romances as
reflecting contemporary life. In these stories, it is often the r61e of the
false steward to spy upon lovers and to report their actions to the lady's
father or husband.
There were grounds of a very practical nature for the insistence upon
secrecy. Chaucer, describing the violation of Lucretia, tells us :
Thise Remain wyves loveden so hir name
At thilke tyme, and dredden so the shame,
That, what for fere of slaundre and drede of deeth,
She loste bothe at ones wit and breeth,
And in a swough she lay. 7
Fear of slander has disturbed the mind of many a woman far less chaste
than Lucretia. As the Wife of Bath aptly puts it,
1 " Dicimus enim et stabilito tenore firmamus, amorem non posse suas inter
duos iugales extendere vires." Andreas, p. 1 53.
2 Ibid., p. 172.
8 " Causa coniugii ab amore non est excusatio recta." Ibid., p. 310.
*"Amoris tui secretaries noli plures habere." Ibid., p. 106.
6 "Amor raro consuevit durare vulgatus." Ibid., p. 310. Cf. also "Qui
suum igitur cupit amorem diu retinere illaesum, eum sibi maxime praecavere
oportet, ut amor extra suos terminos nemini propaletur, sed omnibus reservetur
occultus." Ibid., p. 238.
6 Ibid., p. 310.
7 Legend of Good Women : Lucretia, 11. 133-137.
THE SYSTEM OF COURTLY LOVE 7
" For be we never so vicious withinne,
We wol been holden wyse, and clene of sinne." 1
Despite the moral laxness of the society out of which the courtly love grew,
there were some, perhaps many, to whom its ideas were abhorrent. How-
ever this may be, the women of that society felt it necessary to protect
their good name. Chastity might be dispensed with without scruple, but a
sullied reputation was unbearable. Once the lady had satisfied herself that
the aspiring lover would be true to her, her greatest fear was that their
liaison should become known, and that she might be subjected to the
aspersions of talebearers.
Another reason for secrecy may be found in the peculiar relations between
husband and wife among the higher classes of mediaeval society. Marriage
was rarely a matter in which the heart was concerned. Business affairs and
political considerations often brought about unions in which no affection
could exist. 2 Yet the integrity of the tie and the exclusive rights pertaining
to the married state seem to have been insisted upon by husbands. By the
theory of courtly love, jealousy could not exist between a man and his
wife, 3 and since jealousy was a requisite of love, 4 no love could exist be-
tween them. As a matter of fact, jealous husbands are execrated in love
poetry from the early carols of the peasant girls of Poitou and Limousin 5
to Chaucer. Criseyde says :
" Shal noon housbonde seyn to me ' Chekmat ! '
For either they ben ful of jalousye,
Or maisterful, or loven novelrye." 6
What action the husband of an unfaithful wife was expected to take, in case
her infidelity was discovered, we may infer from the summary and severe
punishment dealt out to such offenders, as it is pictured in romances, ballads,
and chronicles. 7 Due precaution for the maintenance of strict secrecy would
therefore be dictated by wisdom and common sense.
1 Wife of Bath's Tale, 11. 87-89.
2 Langlois, Origines et Sources du Roman de la Rose, Paris, 1891, p. 3.
3 Andreas, p. 154.
4 " Ex vera zelotypia affectus semper crescit amandi." Ibid., p. 154.
5 Paris, Origines de la Poesie Lyrique en France au Moyen Age, Paris, 1892, p. 5 1 .
6 Troilus and Criseyde, bk. ii, st. 108.
7 See the ballad of Sir Aldingar, and the romances The Erl of Tolous and
Sir Triamour; also the romance of The Knight of Curtesy and the Fair Lady
of Faguel, The story of the lover's heart being served by the husband to his
wife while eating, is told also of the troubadour Guillem de Cabestaing ; see
The Lives of the Troubadours, translated by Ida Farnell, London, 1896, pp. 41 ff.
8 COURTLY LOVE
4. Love, to meet the requirements of the courtly system, must not be too
easily obtained! This idea receives great stress because of the lofty posi-
tion which woman held in the courtly society. The concrete working of
the rule is seen in the coldness and capriciousness of the lady, which are
the cause of all the lover's woes as they are pictured in the poetry of the
We have already observed that courtly love was exalted under
the system as a virtue which ennobled those who practised the
art. In theory, love is the fount and origin of every good. 2 It
is constantly associated in the literature with courtesy and " lar-
gess." Andreas declares that love is " ever banished from the
domicile of avarice." 3 In another passage, he states specifically
that love makes the rude and uncouth excel in every grace ; that
it enriches those of low birth with real nobility of character;
and that it makes the true lover show a becoming complaisance
to all. 4 And then he breaks out rapturously : " O, how wonder-
ful is love, which causes a man to be effulgent in virtue, and
teaches every one to abound in good manners! " 5 It was to
achieve these virtues that the courtly lover sought his lady's
favor. Strangely enough, the " good " was all on one side. If
this love was like mercy, which " blesseth him that gives and
him that takes," it is not so stated in the manual of Andreas.
This again is due to the high position held by woman in the
society of the time, and the reverence with which she was
regarded. From her lofty place, as the perfect being, she dis-
pensed favors which were at the same time the reward of noble
deeds and the incentive to further effort.
It must be noted that the ideals of the courtly system, if we
disregard the element of sensualism, were high. This was true,
lw Facilis perceptio contemptibilem reddit amorem, difficilis eum carum
facit haberi." Andreas, p. 310.
2 The iteration of this idea in Andreas becomes tiresome. See pp. 29, 63,
69, 81, 86, 87, 88, 162.
3 Rule 10, Andreas, p. 310. 4 Andreas, p. 9. 6 Ibid., p. 10.
THE SYSTEM OF COURTLY LOVE 9
not only in matters of decorum, but of honor as well. Constancy
was of the utmost importance. 1 No more grievous fault could
be committed, no breach of the canons could be more serious,
than for a lover, man or woman, to be unfaithful. This idea is
insistently dwelt upon by Andreas, and it appears conspicuously
in the other erotic literature of the period and of the following
centuries. " Supplanting " also was strictly forbidden. 2 To
choose for his mistress one whom he would be ashamed to
marry, was thought unworthy of a lover. 3 Though sensual love
lay at the bottom of the system, voluptuousness was regarded as
fatal to real love. 4 Indeed, though according to the courtly ideas
love is in essence sensual, and should be secret and furtive,
yet it incited the lover to worthy deeds ; it demanded of him
nobility of character and moderation in all his conduct. It is a
love evil at the heart of it, yet it is a love which " loses half its
evil, by losing all its grossness."
Such was the theory of the courtly- system. For its practical
side, we turn to the poetry of the troubadours. Inspired, pro-
fessedly, by real and actual love affairs, their lyrics present the
concrete workings of the sentiment which afterward became the
basis of the erotic philosophy not only of Chretien de Troies
but of Andreas himself. In the poems of the troubadours, there-
fore, we find portrayed the birth and progress of their love, their
emotional experiences, their relation and attitude toward the
ladies whose favor they sought, and their behavior as affected
by their passion.
" Nemo duplici potest amore ligari." " Verus amans alterius nisi sui coa-
mantis ex effectu non cupit amplexus." Rules 3, 12, Andreas, p. 310. Cf.
Rule 7, same code.
; " Alterius idonee copulatam amori scienter subvertere non coneris."
Rule 3, Andreas, p. 106.
1 " Eius non curis eligere, cum qua naturalis nuptias contrahere prohibit tibi
pudor." Rule 4, Andreas, p. 106.
" Non solet amare, quern nimia voluptatis abundantia vexat." Rule 29,
Andreas, p. 311. Cf. also Rule 8, ibid., p. 106.
10 COURTLY LOVE
The lady is regularly represented as perfect in all her attri-
butes. The basis of this idea is, of course, the high social
position of woman. Her good qualities were doubtless exag-
gerated, however, because of her rank ; for the poet was often
politically her subject, as well as her humble lover. Her per-
fection is pictured in her physical beauty, her character, and
her influence upon others. Her physical beauty, when portrayed,
accords with the mediaeval ideal. Her hair is blond or golden ;
her eyes beautiful ; her complexion fresh and clear ; her mouth
rosy and smiling ; her flesh white, soft, and smooth ; her body
slender, well formed, and without blemish. In character, she is
distinguished for her courtesy, kindness, refinement, and good
sense. In short, all that makes the perfect woman, in soul or
in manners, the poet's love possesses. Her influence on others
is always ennobling. Her goodness affects all who come near
her, making them better. One poet fondly sings : " There is
not in the whole world a vile person so ill-bred that he will not
become courteous, if he speaks a word with her." 1 Another
declares : " The most ignorant man in the company, when he
sees and gazes at her, ought at parting to be wise and of fine
As a perfect being, the lady occupies a position of exalted
superiority in respect to the lover. He becomes her vassal and
1 Qu' el mon non es vilas tan mal apres,
Si parP ab lieys un mot, non torn cortes.
G. de Saint-Didier.
See Raynouard, Choix des Palsies Originates des Troubadours, Paris, 1816, III,
301. The translations of the passages from the troubadour lyrics are taken
from Mr. Mott's work, The System of Courtly Love.
2 Lo plus nescis horn del renh
Que la veya ni remir
Deuria esser al partir
Savis e de belh captenh.
Raimond de Miraval, Raynouard, III, 359.
THE SYSTEM OF COURTLY LOVE 1 1
protests absolute submission and devotion to her. 1 " Good lady,"
begs Bernart de Ventadorn in his humility, " I demand nothing
more of you than that you take me for a servant, for I will
serve you as one serves a good master, whatever be my reward." 2
Even power of life and death is in the lady's hands. The same
poet says : "In her pleasure may it be, for I am at her mercy :
if it please her to kill me, I do not complain of it at all." 3 His
love for her surpasses all other things in value ; the slightest
token from her makes him rich. " She, whose liegeman I am
without recall, kills me so sweetly with desire, that she would
make me rich with a thread of her glove, or with one of the
hairs that falls on her mantle." 4 The service which he pro-
fesses is often carried to the extreme of worship, and he adores
her as a divinity, giving and commending himself to her with
hands joined and head bowed. 5
1 This feature, of course, reflects the relation of the contemporary vassal
to his lord under the feudal system. On the parallels in this poetry between
the love-service and that of the political vassal, see Wechssler, Frauendienst und
Vasallitdt (Zeitschrift fur franzosische Sprache und Litteratur, XXIV, 1 59 ff.).
2 Bona domna, plus no us deman
Mas que m prendatz per servidor,
Qu' ie us servirai cum bon senhor,
Cossi que del guazardon m'an.
Bernart de Ventadorn, Raynouard, III, 45.
8 En son plazar sia,
Qu' ieu sui en sa merce ;
S'il platz que m'aucia,
leu no m'en clam de re. Raynouard, III, 64.
4 Tan belhamen m'aucira deziran
Selha cui sui hom liges ses revelh,
Que m fera ric ab un fil de son guan,
O d'un dels pels que '1 chai sus son mantelh.
G. de Saint-Didier, Raynouard, III, 300.
8 Mas juntas, ab cap cle,
Vos m'autrei e m coman. Raynouard, III, 60.
12 COURTLY LOVE
The lady rarely appears as a personality in the poetry of the
troubadours, but remains indistinct in the background. From
the poet's portrayal of his own feelings, however, her attitude
toward him is clear enough. We have seen that she possesses
every good quality ; her kindness, however, the lover seldom
experiences. To him she is cold, disdainful, capricious, and
domineering. In vain does he implore pity; in vain does he
complain of her cruelty and beg for mercy ; her rigor is una-
bated. This coldness of the lady is the keynote of by far the
larger part of the poetry which we are now considering. Origi-
nating in the instinctive hesitancy of the woman to yield too
easily, it is here exaggerated beyond all naturalness. In later
erotic literature it becomes a convention and is the motive of
almost all the love-poetry of France for the next four centuries.
Nobility of rank was not a requisite in the troubadour-lovers
of Provence. Poetry seems to have been a common meeting-
ground for knight and burgher, for prince and peasant. The
first troubadour whose work is extant is William IX, Count of
Poitiers. Piere Vidal, one of the most prolific writers, was the
son of a furrier. Alphonso II of Aragon, one of the great
rulers of his age, like Richard the Lion-Hearted, was not only
the friend and patron of the troubadours, but a maker of verses
himself. Bernart de Ventadorn, who loved and was loved by
Eleanor of Aquitaine, was " of low degree, son, to wit, of a serv-
ing man, who gathered brushwood for the heating of the oven
wherein was baked the castle bread." 1 All who sang of love,
however, agreed as to the ennobling effect of love on the char-
acter of the lover. Specifically, because of his love, he becomes
courteous, gentle, humble, generous, and courageous. As one
lover proudly says, " Happy is he whom love keeps joyous, for
love is the climax of all blessings, and through love, one is gay
and courteous, frank and gentle, humble and proud."
1 Farnell, The Lives of the Troubadours (translated), London, 1896, p. 27.
THE SYSTEM OF COURTLY LOVE 13
I have spoken of the absolute devotion of the lover to the
lady, of his service, and his submission to her will. In their
efforts to emphasize these features of their love and the power
which that love exerted over them, the troubadours made use of
as extravagant fancies as their imaginations could invent. The
effects of love, which Professor Neilson aptly speaks of as
" symptoms," are described as suffering, or a severe sickness ;
sleeplessness ; confusion and loss of speech in the lady's
presence ; trembling and pallor when near the loved one ; fear
to make an avowal to the lady; and dread of detection by
Certain other ideas and conceits, though frequent in the
poetry of the troubadours, are important rather because of the
elaborate treatment of them by Chretien de Troies. Three
especially are to be mentioned : the idea that love is caused by
the beauty of the opposite sex ; the conceit that through the
eyes, beauty enters the heart, inflicting a wound which only
the lady can heal ; and the fancy that, though absent from the
loved one, the lover leaves his heart with her. Because of
Chretien's subtlety in dealing with these ideas, they may be
regarded as his particular contribution to the conventional stock.
The idea that love is caused by beauty is illustrated in the
Cligh, where Alexander is represented as thinking of the
charms of Soredamors. " Love pictures to him her beauty, on
1 The place of secrecy in the courtly system has been noticed in consider-
ing the work of Andreas. It may be added that secrecy was a quality which
the troubadour-lovers prized very highly in themselves ; they seldom omit it
from the list of their virtues, when recommending themselves to their ladies'
favor. Yet, the maintenance of secrecy was a difficult matter. Slanderers and
talebearers are constantly execrated. Apparently the talebearer did not con-
fine himself to mere tattling. Misrepresentation of the lover's actions to the
lady herself furnished to unscrupulous persons an easy means of " supplanting,"
and the lover sometimes had to warn his lady not to believe such reports.
Thus Rambaut de Vanqueiras says : w Beautiful worthy lady, courteous and
well-bred, do not believe calumniators, nor evil-speakers about me, for I am
constant to you." See Mahn, Die Werke der Troubadours, Berlin, 1846, I, 374.
14 COURTLY LOVE
account of which he feels himself fort grevt. It has robbed
him of his heart, nor does it allow him to rest in his bed : so
much is he delighted to remember the beauty and the counte-
nance of [Soredamors]." 1
More subtlety is displayed in the poet's use of the second
idea, in the passage from the same poem where Alexander
undergoes a rigid self-examination on the manner in which love
has attacked him. He says : " It has wounded me so severely,
that even to the heart his (Love's) dart has penetrated. . . .
How then does it penetrate the body when the wound does not
appear on the outside ? . . . Through what has it penetrated ?
Through the eye. Through the eye ? And yet it has not put
out the eye ? In the eye it has not hurt me at all, but in the
heart it hurts me grievously. Tell me then : how has the dart
passed through the eye so that it is neither wounded nor de-
stroyed ? If the dart enters through the eye, why does the heart
suffer, and not the eye which received the first blow ? " And
so he continues to analyze this all-important question until he
hits upon the explanation that, as the sunlight penetrates glass
without breaking it, so the light of beauty pierces the eye
without harming it, and reaches the heart. 2
Chretien's treatment of the third idea is quite as subtle.
When Ivain found it necessary to leave Laudine and to accom-
pany Sir Gawain and the king to Britain, the poet tells us, the
lover departed from his lady very unwillingly, although his heart
did not depart from her at all. " The king can take away the
body, but the heart not a bit ; for it is so joined and holds so
fast to the heart of her who remains behind, that he has not the
power to take it. While the body is without the heart, it can in
no wise live ; and if the body does live without the heart, such a
wonder no man has ever seen. This wonder has come to pass ;
1 Chretien de Troies, Cligks, ed. W. Forster, Halle, 1910, 11. 618-625.
2 Ibid., 11. 692 ff.
THE SYSTEM OF COURTLY LOVE 15
for the body [of Ivain] has kept its life without the heart which
used to be there, and which does not wish to follow it more." :
The quotations given illustrate the minuteness of Chretien's
philosophizing on questions of love, and his process of refine-
ment, which later poets regarded with delight, and which, as far
as they were able, they imitated in their own work.
In general, then, we have seen that the ideas of the trouba-
dours, derived in the main from Ovid, but developed and ex-
aggerated in the south of France, became in the north the
principles and requirements of a fixed code. Chretien made
certain conceits into formal doctrines, which were accepted as
such by later writers. Still other fancies became rules of con-
duct in matters of love. The coldness of the lady is reflected in
Andreas's law : " The easy attainment of love renders it con-
temptible ; difficult attainment makes it to be held dear." 2 The
idea of fear in the lady's presence became a philosophical prin-
ciple: "Amorosus semper est timorosus." 3 The same is true
of the trembling : "In repentina coamantis visione cor contre-
mescit amantis." 4 Sleeplessness, at first a result of love, be-
came a requirement imposed upon lovers : " Minus dormit et
edit, quern amoris cogitatio vexat." 5 In short, the ideas of the
troubadour lyrics are the basis of the whole courtly system ; and
Andreas's book is but a quasi-scientific attempt to reduce to
laws the practices of the troubadours and other courtly lovers
of the time.
Besides the elements thus far treated, which belong to the
essential theory of courtly love, certain incidental features of the
courtly literature must be briefly mentioned. A number of con-
ventional devices were of such frequent occurrence in mediaeval
1 Chretien, Ivain, ed. W. Forster, Halle, 1906, 11. 2639-2654.
! " Facilis perceptio contemptibilem reddit amorem, difficilis eum carum facit
haberi." Andreas, p. 310.
8 Ibid., p. 311. 4 Ibid., p. 311. 5 Ibid., p. 311.
16 COURTLY LOVE
love-poetry that they became characteristic of the tradition with
which this study is concerned. Many erotic poems, for example,
were cast in the form of dreams or visions, doubtless in imita-
tion of the apocalyptic writings of the Church. Thus the love-
vision came to constitute a distinct literary type, and for a long
time was perhaps the prevailing mode of expression of courtly
sentiment. Poems of this class commonly tell the story of the
experience of a hero in the service of love. The events are usually
assigned to the springtime, in keeping with an old and lasting
association between love and that season of the year. The hero
is often conducted by a guide to the god of love, whose habi-
tation is more or less fully described. Allegorical figures abound,
exhibiting various phases of love or the virtues and faults of
lovers ; and the person of the divinity himself is conceived in
accordance with certain definite traditions. 1
The personification of love as a god is an inheritance from
classical times, and a good example may be found in the first
elegy of Ovid's Amores. The poet, about to sing of " arms and
the violent wars," is compelled by Cupid to change his subject:
Questus eram, pharetra cum protinus ille soluta,
Legit in exitium spicula facta meum,
Lunavitque genu sinuosum fortiter arcum,
" Quod " que " canas, vates, accipe " dixit, " opus ! "
Me miserum ! certas habuit puer ille sagittas :
Uror, et in vacuo pectore regnat Amor. 2
Love triumphs over the poet, and he confesses himself van-
Sic erit : haeserunt tenues in corde sagittae,
Et possessa ferus pectora versat Amor. 8
1 The love-vision as a literary type is well described and illustrated by
W. O. Sypherd in his Studies in the "Hous of Fame? Chaucer Society, 1907,
pp. 6 ff.
2 Ovid, Amores, i, i, 21-26.
3 Ibid., i, 2, 7-8.
THE SYSTEM OF COURTLY LOVE I/
This personification of love as a god, with the appurtenances of
quiver and arrows, is in constant use in the mediaeval love liter-
ature. The hero of the Pamphilus de Amore, 1 which is in the
spirit of Ovid throughout, suffers from a wound inflicted by the
god's arrows. It is a shot from his bow that brings Chretien's
hero, Alexander, low. Yvain, too, is a victim of the deadly dart.
Without the accompaniment of his weapons, Love is frequently
depicted as an all-powerful deity, to express the idea that to all
suitable young persons love is not only a duty, but a fate which
they cannot escape. In the early poetry of the troubadours, Love
is a goddess whose power is irresistible, whose command is law
to the lover, who at times is cruel, at others, neglectful of her
servants. Bernart de Ventadorn sings : " I have no power at
all that can defend me against Love ; . . . when I think to free
myself, I cannot, for Love holds me." 2 He says of himself,
" I alas ! whom Love forgets," 3 and addresses" the cruel goddess
thus : " Whatever you command me to do, I shall do, for so it
is fitting, but you do not well always to make me suffer." 4
Chretien also personifies love to express the same idea of a
resistless god. Soredamors is helpless in his hands ; against
Love she thinks to defend herself, but it is useless. 5 He brings
her to grief and avenges himself upon her for her great pride
and indifference. 6
1 Ed. by A. Baudoin, Paris, 1874.
2 Mas ieu non ai ges poder
Que m puesca d'amor defendre ; . . .
Ans quant ieu m'en cug estraire
No pues ges, qu' amors mi te. Raynouard, III, p. 47.
3 Ieu las! cui amors oblida . . . Ibid., Ill, p. 91.
4 Que que m comandetz a faire
Farai, qu' en aissi s cove,
Mas vos non o faitz ges be
Que m fassatz tot jorn maltraire. Ibid., p. 47.
5 Chretien, Cligis> 11. 528-529. 6 Ibid., 11. 456-459.
1 8 COURTLY LOVE
The classical conception of the god of Love is still familiar
in literature. In mediaeval writings, however, the deity often
took on special characteristics borrowed from the religious con-
ditions of the time. Thus in the Concile de Remiremont^ a
Latin poem of the twelfth century, a council is assembled by
one who acts under the commands of the god of Love. Its
members are all enlisted in his service, and they regulate their
lives in accordance with his precepts and wishes. The meeting
is opened with a ceremony of worship ; but the form of pro-
cedure is clearly borrowed from the service of the Church, and
is inconsistent with the worship paid to a heathen divinity. The
Concile is representative of a large class of erotic literature in
which a systematic religion of love is set forth, modelled on that
of the Church. The New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse became
the Paradise in which dwelt the god of Love, and in which were
reserved places for his disciples. There was also a Purgatory
where those who refused to bow to his commands were punished.
In the book of Andreas, both these places are elaborately de-
scribed. 2 The new religious system had its gospel, its com-
mandments, its apostles and teachers ; examples of the two
former we have seen in the codes of Andreas's book. In short,
adaptations of all the important features of the mediaeval
Christian worship may be found in the erotic literature of the
Alongside the conception of the god of Love just noticed,
there appears another in which the characteristics of the deity
reflected rather social than religious conditions. To him were
given the attributes of a feudal lord, to whom, as to their chief,
lovers swear loyalty and obedience. In return for faithful serv-
ice, the god, who now often becomes a king, acts as their pro-
tector and has at heart the welfare of his vassals. Disputes are
1 Printed by G. Waitz in Zeitschrift fur deutsches Alterthum, VII, 160 ff.
2 Andreas, pp. 91 ff. 3 Langlois, Origines, pp. 220 ff.
THE SYSTEM OF COURTLY LOVE 19
carried to him for arbitration ; and in his court, surrounded by
his barons, he administers justice. This conception of the god
of Love was well known to Chretien. Alexander remarks : "A
servant ought to tremble with fear when his lord calls him or
sends for him. And whoever commends himself to Love, makes
him his lord and master, and it is right that such a one hold
him in reverence and fear him and honor him much, if he
indeed wishes to be of his court." l The same ideas appear in
varying degrees in many documents of the period. In the Old
French Florance and Blancheflor? in particular, the feudal
character of the god is made prominent. He here becomes a
king, with a court of bird-barons, to whom a case is referred for
settlement. The " inconsistency in the use of ' king or god,' " as
Professor Neilson has remarked with reference to this poem,
" . . . is suggestive of the process by which the classical divine
court took on a feudal character. The birds are just about to be
brought in, not merely as attendants on the god of Love, but as
barons with deliberating power, and almost unconsciously, it
might seem, the poet begins to speak of a king instead of a
god." 3 An interesting example of the same process is also
furnished by two other French pieces, Li Fablel dou Dieu
d' Amours 4 and Vemis la Deesse d 'Amour? which are in reality
only different versions of a single story. In the former, there
is no suggestion of the judicial character of the god ; he is
simply the classical divinity who comes to the aid of one of his
worshippers in trouble. In Venus la Deesse, his role as judge
is brought out with distinctness and in detail. He holds his
court, before which the case of the lover is argued, and renders
the decision which restores to the hero his lady.
1 Chretien, Cligts, 11. 3879-3892.
2 Barbazan et Meon, Fabliaux et Contes, Paris, 1808, IV, 354-365.
8 Neilson, Origins, p. 38.
* Ed. by A. Jubinal, Paris, 1834.
6 Ed. by W. Forster, Bonn, 1880.
20 COURTLY LOVE
In the consideration of the love deity in the literature which
it is the purpose of this study to examine, the three conceptions
pointed out in the preceding paragraphs will be distinguished
by the terms " classical," " ecclesiastical," and " feudal." It is
clear, however, that, since the classical deity took on the pecul-
iar attributes consistent with the ecclesiastical and feudal con-
ceptions, there may appear a blending of the classical with the
ecclesiastical, or of the classical with the feudal. In any given
case where the nature of such added features is clear, the term
"ecclesiastical" or "feudal" will be used: the former, when
the religion of the deity in question reflects some phase of the
Christian religion or of the worship of the mediaeval Church ;
the latter, when the deity exercises the powers of a feudal lord
whom the lover serves in the capacity of a vassal or a subject.
The term " classical " will be reserved for those cases in which
the deity appears with the characteristics given him in the
classical literature, but without any of the attributes peculiar to
either the feudal or the ecclesiastical conception.
Care has here been taken to employ the word " deity " or
" divinity," because, instead of a god, or along with him, a
goddess often appears, to whom is attributed the same power
and authority. Venus as the goddess of Love is frequently
found with Cupid the god of Love, as was seen in Venus la
Deesse. Often she appears alone, either as the goddess or as
the queen of Love. In general, poets do not consistently dis-
criminate between Venus and Cupid as the love deity.
COURTLY LOVE IN THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE
AND LATER FRENCH WORKS
In the foregoing chapter have been presented the principles
of the courtly love system, with some illustrations of its treat-
ment in literature. It has been shown that the conduct of lovers
was prescribed by laws which arose from conventionalizing real
and spontaneous, although exaggerated, sentiments of the poets ;
the personification of love appearing in the erotic literature has
been noted ; and attention has been called to certain forms in
which a large class of the love-poetry was cast. All these ideas
and characteristics appear, in one way or another, in Guillaume
de Lorris's part of the Romance of the Rose, the most important
French love document of mediaeval times. Although it was
written to delight its readers by the story of the author's love
affair, one important purpose, hinted at by the poet in the
familiar lines, Q ^ ]e Roman de ]a Rose
Ou 1'art d'amour est tote enclose,
entitles it to be considered, as Paris calls it, "un veritable
Art d" Amour" l The character of the work, therefore, and also
the influence it exerted upon later literature in both French and
English make a rather full summary of its contents desirable at
The Romance of the Rose 2 is the story of a dream of a young
man of twenty years. He rises on a May morning and goes
1 Paris, La. Lift. Fr, au M. A., p. 178.
2 The quotations are from the Middle English translation of the Romance,
and from the French edition of P. Marteau, Orleans, 1878.
22 COURTLY LOVE
out to hear the songs of the birds. He wanders over a lovely
meadow watered by a river. Following the course of the stream,
he sees before him a high wall, which encloses a spacious
garden. He draws closer and sees painted on the outside of the
wall ten hideous figures of Haine, Felonie, Vilennie, Couvitise,
Avarice, Envie, Tristesse, Viellesse, Papelardie, and Poverte.
/ j As he contemplates these paintings, he longs to enter the
garden. Finally he knocks boldly at a small wicket in the wall,
and is admitted by a charming maiden called Oyseuse. She tells
him that she is the friend of Deduit, the master of the garden,
who has just now come thither with his companions to enjoy
the beauties of the place and to hear the music of the birds.
The hero greatly desires to see Deduit, and follows a little
path until he comes upon him and his merry companions danc-
ing. In the party are the god of Love and his squire, Dous-
Regard, who carries two bows, the one crooked and gnarled, the
other well shaped and finely carved. He also has two quivers,
the one containing five beautiful gold-tipped arrows, the other
as many which are hideous to behold. Courtoisie, who is of the
god's party, perceives the hero, and invites him to take part in
the dance, which he gladly does. The dance over, the company
disbands, and the hero continues his wanderings.
As he walks along he is aware that he is being followed by
the god of Love, who holds the fair bow and the five golden
arrows. He is fearful lest the arrows are intended for him, but
he keeps on his way until he comes to a marble fountain, on
the border of which he sees the inscription : " Here died the
beautiful Narcissus." In the waters of the fountain are reflected
all the wonders of the garden. He especially admires, however,
a magnificent bush of roses, one of which, more lovely than
all the rest, he desires to pluck. While he is contemplating
the beauty of the rose, the god approaches and, drawing his
bow, shoots the arrow Biaute, piercing the lover's eye. He
COURTLY LOVE IN FRENCH WORKS 23
immediately draws again, and shoots in rapid succession the other
four darts, Simplece, Franchise, Compaignie, and Biau-Semblant.
The god now tells him that all resistance is vain, and advises
him to acknowledge his conqueror for his lord and master. To
this the lover agrees, and offers, in token of submission, to kiss
the god's feet ; but he is graciously allowed to kiss his lips
instead. Thus the hero becomes Love's vassal. After receiving
from him assurances of his submission, Cupid proceeds to lay
down his commandments and to teach him all the art of love.
He shows all the joys, sorrows, and perils that a servant of Love
must experience. The courage of the lover is somewhat dashed
at this recital ; but the god reassures him by telling him that
the hope of winning his lady will sustain him in his trials, and
he promises to leave with his new disciple three comforters,
Dous-Penser, Dous-Parler, and Dous-Regard, who will bring
him consolation if he but remain faithful. Having completed
his instructions, the god leaves him alone.
The lover now desires above everything else to possess the
Rose. But it is surrounded by a hedge, and his efforts to sur-
mount the barrier would be vain. At this juncture, he sees
a youth coming, Bel-Acueil, who offers to assist him over the
hedge and to lead him to the Rose. He accepts the offer ; but
he perceives that the tree is guarded by the sleeping Dangier
and his companions Male-Bouche, Honte, and Paor. The lover
attempts to pluck the Rose, but Dangier suddenly awakes and
drives both Bel-Acueil and him from the enclosure. While he
wanders about the garden in despair, Raison approaches and
advises him to give up the folly of love. He rejects this advice,
however, and goes in search of Ami, to whom he confides his
grief. Ami comforts him by telling him that Dangier is not
so terrible as he seems ; a little flattery will overcome his harsh-
ness and enable the lover to see his Rose again. The lover
follows Ami's advice, and is successful in appeasing the anger
24 COURTLY LOVE
of his enemy. Bel-Acueil now returns and leads the lover into
the enclosure, where he is permitted to kiss the Rose. But
Male-Bouche and Honte are watching, and they arouse Jalousie,
who builds a high tower, in which he shuts up Bel-Acueil after
soundly berating him. He places as guards at the tower, Paor,
Dangier, and Male-Bouche. The lover weeps at the loss of
his friend ; in the midst of his plaints, the story breaks off.
The form of the Romance is that of the love-vision. It has
several of the features already noted as characteristic of the
type : the story is in the dream setting ; the time is May ; the
place, a meadow with the usual abundance of flowers and of
trees filled with singing birds ; the narrative is the experience
of a servant of Love, at least, of one who in the story becomes
his servant. Love himself, who is often represented in the
vision-poems as enthroned in a gorgeous palace, here follows
the hero in his wanderings about the garden. For the author's
purpose is to tell of his own subjugation by means of the gold-
tipped arrows, and there would have been an incongruity in the
god's discharging the arrows from his throne. But in spite of
the change of situation, the three usual conceptions of the love
deity all appear clearly in the Romance.
In his first appearance to the hero, Love is the classical god,
with his quivers and arrows. Guillaume de Lorris has employed
the Ovidian fancy of giving two kinds of arrows to the god, 1 but
he has elaborated it, as indeed he has most of the ideas which
In his encounter with the lover, the feudal characteristics of
the god are brought out clearly. In order to vanquish the hero,
he discharges the gold-tipped arrows in rapid succession, in
accordance with the classical conception. But the figure then
changes, as is shown in the god's demand that the lover do him
homage (1. 1998), and later, that he give him hostages (11. 2043 ff.).
1 Neilson, p. 54.
COURTLY LOVE IN FRENCH WORKS 25
The lover gives himself to the god's service (11. 1947, 2 105, 2 1 1 5,
2130) ; puts his life and death into Cupid's hands ; binds himself
to the god (11. 1955-1956) ; offers to kiss the god's feet (1. 1981);
and becomes, in the technical sense, his "man" (1. 2035).
Though the ecclesiastical conception is not so prominent as
the feudal, traces of it are seen in the general idea of giving
commandments to the lover ; in the idea of sin against the
god, appearing in the lines :
In thank thy servis wol I take,
And high of gree I wol thee make,
If wikkednesse ne hindre thee ;
in the reference to the god's power to curse :
I curse and blame generally
Alle hem that loven vilany ;
and in the god's imposing penance upon the lover :
First I joyne thee, here in penaunce, . . .
Thou set thy thought in thy loving.
The personification of carnal love as Venus should be noted.
This is seen in the passage where she is described as always
making war on chastity (1. 3699), and where she inflames Bel-
Acueil with her blazing brand, and thus secures for the lover
the coveted privilege of kissing the Rose (11. 3697-3757).
Two methods are employed by the author to set forth the art
of love : direct instruction given by the god, and the use of per-
sonified abstractions. As the personifications do little more than
elaborate certain features of the formal doctrine, the interview
of the god with the lover is of chief importance as a statement
Of the author's ideas.
The god's instructions, after he has received the lover's
homage, may be divided into two parts : the first dealing with
the personal qualities a lover should have ; the second portray-
ing his pains and pleasures. The commands, coming under the
first head, are :
26 COURTLY LOVE
1. Leave villainy.
Vilany at the begining,
I wol, sayd Love, over alle thing,
Thou leve, if thou wolt not be
Fals, and trespasse agaynes me.
" Villainy," in the Old French poetry, was a blanket word used
to cover the undesirable qualities a knight or lover should not
have. 1 As the god says, " vilayns arn without pitee, friendship,
love, and all bountee." After issuing this general order the god
mentions two of the specific faults which, coming under the
head of " villainy," the lover must avoid : speaking evil (11. 2203-
2215), and speaking words of ribaldry (11. 2223-2228). He also
mentions some specific virtues, which, as a courteous gentleman,
the lover would be expected to practise : to salute those whom he
meets (11. 2216-2222) ; to serve and honor all women ; to de-
fend their good names and endeavor to please them, that they
may be well disposed toward him (11. 2229-2238).
2. Keep yourself from pride ;
For pryde is founde, in every part,
Contrarie unto Loves art.
But the god reminds the lover that to dress well is not pride ;
For fresh array, as men may see,
Withouten pryde may ofte be.
Therefore he commands him to array himself with elegance ; to
live within his income, but to have his raiment in good style
and always becoming (11. 2255-2274). He further instructs the
lover as to neatness and cleanliness of person : to keep his
hands, teeth, and nails clean ; to keep his hair combed. The
influence of Ovid is clearly seen in the instructions in regard
to cleanliness and neatness. 2
1 S. L. Galpin, Cortois and Vilain, New Haven, 1905, pp. 95-96.
z Ovid, Ars Amatoria, i, 505-524.
COURTLY LOVE IN FRENCH WORKS 27
3. Be as merry and joyful as possible.
Love hath no joye of sorrowful man.
The more detailed instruction is, to be ready to entertain others
with his accomplishments of riding, feats of arms, singing,
playing on instruments, dancing, or whatever they may be
(11. 2305-2324) ; also to make songs and complaints for his
lady's sake, in order that she may be moved to pity his pain
4. Be generous in giving and spending. Here may be in-
cluded the later advice of the god, to give gifts freely to the
lady's maid and to her other servants (11. 2695-2716), which
is taken from Ovid. 1
These commands are all summed up " in wordes fewe com-
Who so with love wol goon or ryde
He mot be curteys and void of pryde,
Mery and fulle of jolite
And of largesse alosed be.
As a penance the lover is enjoined to set his thought on loving
without repentance, and to think upon future happiness, which
shall come when he meets his lady (11. 2355-2360). This idea
is elaborated in the personification of Dous-Penser :
Thought in absence is good to thee,
It maketh lovers have remembrance
Of comfort, and of high plesaunce,
That Hope hath hight him for to winne.
Dous-Penser shall bring before him, as in a mirror, all the
physical charms of his lady, and so shall not only assuage the
pains of love, but double the joys. 2
1 Ars Amatoria, i, 351-374.
2 Cf. also :
And thogh thou go, yet must thee nede
Thenke al-day on hir fairhede (11. 2483-2484).
28 COURTLY LOVE
5. To these commands the god adds a fifth, which is
concerned with the relation of the lover to his lady :
I wol and eek comaun.de thee,
That in oo place thou sette, al hool,
Thyn herte, withouten halfen dool
For trecherie, in sikernesse.
That is, he enjoins upon the lover constancy. The qualities
which the god demands in his servant are : courtesy, humility,
gaiety, generosity, and constancy. With the exception of gaiety,
these are the cardinal virtues of the courtly lover, as we have
seen them in the work of Andreas Capellanus.
The god now proceeds to lay before the lover the pains and
pleasures which are inseparable from his service. In doing this,
he enumerates the conventional symptoms of love, which have
become established as principles firmly enough to be put in the
form of injunctions :
1. He must keep in solitude, in order to hide from others
his love sorrows (11. 2390-2396).
2. He must suffer changes of temperature, alternate heat and
cold (11. 2397-2402).
3. He must often forget himself utterly, and be dumb and
motionless (11. 2403-2418).
4. He must be restless and ill at ease when absent from his
lady (11. 2419-2452).
5. He must have an insatiable longing for a sight of his lady
The idea of this observation is elaborated in the use of the
personification Dous- Regard, one of the three comforters whom
the god promises to the lover. In speaking of him Cupid
repeats substantially the same admonition that he gives here :
Wherfore thou prese alwey to be
In place, where thou mayst hir se.
For it is thing most amerous,
Most delitable and saverous,
COURTLY LOVE IN FRENCH WORKS 29
For to aswage a mannes sorowe,
To sene his lady by the morowe.
For it is a ful noble thing
Whan thyn eyen have meting
With that relyke precious,
Wherof they be so desirous. . . .
For than the herte is al at ese,
Whan they seen that [that] may hem plese.
6. He must reproach himself for having been too timid to
tell his lady of his love when opportunity presented itself
7. He must find occasion to be near the lady's abode ; but
he must go and come secretly (11. 2503-2522).
8. He must become pale, tremble, and lose his speech in
the lady's presence (11. 2523-2552).
9. He must be sleepless and suffer agonies at night (11. 2 5 5 3-
10. He must dream of happiness with her, and awake in
sorrow to find it but a dream (11. 2568-2640).
11. He must go secretly and early to her house, no matter
how bad the weather (11. 2641-2680).
12. He must grow lean and pale (11. 2681-2694).
One of the most important principles of the courtly love, as
given by Andreas, is not made the subject of especial command
by Guillaume de Lorris : this is the necessity of secrecy. The
idea is brought out, however, in connection with several of the
symptoms of love just enumerated, and also in the god's advice
to the lover to choose a discreet confidant (1. 2856).
The idea of laying down a set of laws for observance by the
lover was borrowed by Guillaume from Andreas Capellanus, 1
and his precepts, so far as they correspond to those of Andreas,
need only to be mentioned. A good number of the doctrines of
the courtly love, as set forth by Andreas in form of statutes, are
1 Paris, La Lit. Fr. au M. A., p. 180.
30 COURTLY LOVE
found in the Romance in other forms. The doctrine that love,
to be prized, should not be too easily obtained, 1 is stated by
the god :
Freend, by the feith I owe to thee,
May no man have good, but he it by.
A man loveth more tendirly
The thing that he hath bought most dere.
For wite thou wel, withouten were,
In thank that thing is taken more,
For which a man hath suffred sore.
The possession of a confidant which is implied in Andreas's
law, "Amoris tui secretarios noli plures habere," 2 and which
indeed was often a necessity in the real life of courtly lovers, is
strongly advised by the god in the Romance, in his promise of
Dous-Parler to the lover :
Therefore I rede thee that thou get
A felowe that can wel concele
And kepe thy counsel, and wel hele,
To whom go shewe hoolly thyn herte,
Bothe wele and wo, joye and smerte.
" For it is a noble thing," he says, " to have a man thou darst
say thy prive counsel." From this friend the lover can seek
comfort, and with him he can talk of the pains and joys of his
love. The idea is further carried out by the use of the person-
ification Ami, who advises the lover in his time of need.
The ideas which have been noted as the especial favorites of
Chretien de Troies, and which he developed with such minute-
ness, are also present in the Romance. Beauty was the first
arrow which the god shot at the hero, and piercing his eye the
point remained in his heart, inflicting a wound which was curable
only by the lady whose beauty was the cause. The conceit of
sending the heart to the lady appears in the lover's complaint :
1 Andreas, Long Code, Rule 14, p. 311.
2 Andreas, p. 106.
COURTLY LOVE IN FRENCH WORKS 31
And if such cause thou have, that thee
Bihoveth gon out of contree,
Leve hool thyn herte in hostage,
Til thou ageyn make thy passage.
God what may this be,
That I ne may my lady see?
Myn herte aloon is to her go,
And I abyde al sole in wo,
Departed from myn owne thought
And with myne eyen see right nought.
Something like Chretien's subtlety in treating the heart and
eyes appears in the passage which sets forth the virtues of
For whan thyn eyen were thus in blis,
Yit of hir curtesye, y-wis,
Aloon they can not have hir joye,
But to the herte they [it] convoye ;
Part of hir blis to him they sende,
Of al this harm to make an ende.
The eye is a good messangere,
Which can to the herte in such manere
Tidyngis sende, that [he] hath seen,
To voide him of his peynes cleen.
The position of the lady with respect to the lover, in the sys-
tem of love which the god expounds to the hero, is clearly that
which we have already seen in the troubadours' poetry. The
lover's attitude of humility before her, his preference for one
smile of hers to having
Of another al hool the pley,
his longing for her favor, his confusion, loss of speech and
memory, and trembling in her presence, his complete devotion
to her all these are present in the god's exposition of love.
In the development of the poet's own love story, the idea of the
32 COURTLY LOVE
lady's exalted position does not seem to be carried out. Trans-
lated into plain language, the elaborate allegory of the Romance
becomes a simple tale. The lover " has beheld his beautiful lady
and been charmed by her beauty, her grace, her courtesy ; she
has received him with gentleness, but when he declares his love,
she grows alarmed. He gains at last the kiss which tells of her
affection ; but her parents, intervening, throw obstacles between
the lovers." 1 This gives a hint of the difference which must
have obtained often between the theory and practice of courtly
love. However much the art taught the lover to tremble
and to be confused in the presence of his mistress, the under-
lying meaning of the allegory shows that she was not cold and
disdainful, that she was not moved by the lover's passion only.
Measures of prudence on her part, and precautions taken by
her parents, were the influences which restrained her from
granting her favor to the lover, when asked.
The sensual element in the Romance is minimized. The
thought of marriage, it is true, does not enter the mind of the
author ; in this the work is in accord with the courtly ideas of
the time of Marie of Champagne. But the love here is not
avowedly sensual, though indications of its carnal nature are not
wanting. 2 Such indications, however, are little more than hints.
Very little that is gross can be found in the work. Written for
the diversion of the aristocratic circle, 3 in its delicacy, refine-
ment, and gentleness of sentiment, the Romance admirably rep-
resents the side of mediaeval society to which it was addressed. 4
1 Dowden, A History of French Literature, New York, 1903, p. 35.
2 Tex fois sera qu'il t'iert avis
Que tu tendras cele au cler vis
Entre tes bras tretoute nue,
Ausinc cum s'el ert devenue
Du tout t'amie et ta compaignie (11. 2525-2529).
8 See 1. 34 : For vos cuers plus fere esgaier.
4 Paris, La Lit. Fr. au M. A., p. 182.
COURTLY LOVE IN FRENCH WORKS 33
But it was written at a time when the courtly love ideas, as ex-
pressed in the romance of love and adventure, had reached their
full development ; when, as has been seen, all spontaneity had
ceased, and the desire to codify knowledge, present in all fields
of learning, was displayed also in the work of erotic writers.
Viewed as an art of love, the Romance of the Rose, therefore,
may be considered as culminative, in the sense that it brings
to completion sentiments before prominent in the literature,
that, if not the last, it is the best, example in poetry of the codi-
fying process which found its expression in prose in the work
of Andreas Capellanus.
The successors of Lords in French poetry were long domi-
nated by his influence, and the Romance of the Rose thus
perpetuated the use of conventions which were already worn
threadbare before it was written. Throughout the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries love-visions and love-lyrics in various forms
were widely composed ; love-allegory was enormously cultivated ;
and a vast mass of insipid, conventional verse, devoid of real
sentiment or passion, was the result. It would not be profitable
to examine this literature here at any length. Such a study
would serve only to multiply examples of the ideas and devices
of which we have noted the origin in earlier writers, and of
which we shall later see masterly use in the hands of Chaucer.
It is important, however, to observe that the courtly tradition
was well represented by several poets Machaut, Deschamps,
Froissart, and Granson by whom Chaucer was certainly influ-
enced, 1 and who must have been well known to Gower. None
of these later French writers adds anything really new to the
courtly theory. They all praise the same beauties, inculcate the
1 Recent research shows that Chaucer's relation to these writers was much
closer than was formerly suspected. See the Chaucer Manual of Miss Ham-
mond, under the authors named ; and cf . Modern Philology, I, i ff. ; VII, 465 ff. ;
VIII, 165 ff. ; and Modern Language Review, Jan. 1910, pp. 33 ff.
34 COURTLY LOVE
same virtues, and sing the same familiar joys and sorrows. In
the course of time they perhaps develop greater ingenuity in
their allegory, and achieve a finer grace of style and metrical
form. A kind of originality, too, is claimed for Machaut by
virtue of the personal tone which he introduces into his erotic
writings, though it is doubtful how far they are descriptiv3 of
actual experience. 1 But on the whole the courtly system of this
later generation differs little from that of the age of Marie de
Champagne. The love they celebrate, like that of their prede-
cessors, is illicit and sensual at bottom, although described
mostly with refinement or restraint. It is therefore still con-
demned by the Church, and various documents of the time
contrast it with the higher love of conjugal life. 2 But that the
courtly sentiment itself was sometimes capable of purity and
elevation is shown by an important work of Chaucer's own life-
time, with which we may properly conclude our discussion of
his French predecessors.
Les Cent Balades^ written by Jean le Seneschal and several
of his friends in 1389, has been described as a " vrai bouquet de
grace et de courtoisie, dernier sourire de la societe chevale-
resque." 4 It tells of a young man, himself a lover, who receives
from an old knight advice as to how to conduct himself in his
love. The knight, who when young had been endowed by the
1 See the (Euvres de Guillaume de Machaut, ed. E. Hopffner, for the
Societe des Anciens Textes Fran^ais, Paris, 1908, Introduction, p. ii ; Chich-
maref's edition of the Pohies Lyriques of Machaut, Paris, 1909, Introduction,
p. Ixvii; and Hanf, Zeitschrift fur Romanische Philologie, XXII, 195- Com-
pare also the remarks on autobiographical material in the love-poems of
Chaucer and Gower, p. ioo,n., below.
2 Compare, for example, the Chastiement des Dames of Robert de Blois,
published in Barbazan's Fabliaux et Contes, II, 184 ff. ; and the Book of the
Knight of La Tour Landry, ed. Thomas Wright for the Early English Text
Society, rev. ed., 1906.
3 Ed. by G. Raynaud, for the Societe des Anciens Textes Fra^ais, 1905.
4 G. Paris, La Poesie dit Moyen Age, Second Series, p. 229.
COURTLY LOVE IN FRENCH WORKS 35
god of Love with the gifts Doulce Pensee, Plaisance, Amoureux
Desir, and Esperance, relates how he had given his heart wholly
to the best and fairest lady in the world, and how life had been
beautiful to him ever since. This great happiness had come to
him because he faithfully performed the commands of Love
and had remained loyal to his lady. Loyalty always brings such
rewards. The knight dwells at length on the effect wrought by
true love on the character of a lover ; and he warns the youth
of the evil consequences of disloyalty and pretense. The young
lover thanks him for his good counsel, and declares that his
desire is always to be loyal and true.
Not long after this, the lover happens to be near a company
of " gracious and pleasing folk," in a garden bordering upon
the river Loire. He does not speak to them, but keeps himself
apart, his eyes upon the water, his thoughts upon his love.
While he is standing there, one of the ladies in the merry com-
pany approaches him, and asks if he is in the service of the
god of Love. Upon his replying that he is, she volunteers to
give him some advice, by following which he will be happy and
joyous. " Certainly," she says, upon hearing his determination
to remain loyal to his lady, "you have need of counsel; for
now I see that you will never obtain the great good which you
desire. I pray you, do not persist in this foolish thought." Her
good counsel is to this effect : Look to the good things in
love : declare your passion to your lady, and if then you can
come to your " fait," good ; if not, do not be so much hers that
you take no account of others. Do not let love overcome you.
If love of your lady grows in your heart so that she holds you
entirely in her "danger," you had better be dead. Throw off
your bonds, and divide your attentions. Only, work secretly.
This is all the loyalty you need observe. Always see how your
"fait" can be accomplished before you ask. Conduct yourself
humbly among the ladies ; serve each one, praise their deeds
36 COURTLY LOVE
and their beauty. If one receives your "raison" favorably,
accomplish your desire quickly.
Vent au faucon, vent au heron !
The fair ones you entreat, pursue humbly to the end, and you
will succeed. Solicit them morn and even, day and night. Let
no long interval go by without entreating them. Be quiet ; say
nothing of yourself, and speak no evil of another. But swear
no vows unless you must. If one repulses you, ask her pardon.
Tell her she is so beautiful and good that you must love her
whether you will or not ; it is no use to strive against it. Then
embrace her secretly. If she takes it ill, she is too nice, or
wishes to play the wise woman. To love is natural : keep it
up ; the ladies will give in. Though you have your troubles,
you will obtain your desires in the long run.
The young lover still persists in his determination to remain
faithful ; and so they decide to submit to all lovers the question :
Which brings the more joy in love, to maintain loyalty or to
practice falsity ? The book ends with thirteen balades, which
are given in reply to the question by different knights. Some
are favorable to the lady, but most of them agree with the old
knight in advocating loyalty.
"In this book, we have very clearly opposed two different
kinds of love, of both of which we have had abundant indications
in the two preceding centuries. . . . That of the lady is the
old attitude which is most clearly represented by Ovid and his
mediaeval imitators, with some of the grossness left out, but with
an essentially immoral element at the heart of it. It is lower
than the usual troubadour ideal, inasmuch as that made much
of the virtue of loyalty to one woman at a time. That of the
old knight, on the other hand, is loftier than the troubadour's,
since it is clearly honorable love with a view to marriage, which
he recommends and praises. It includes all the noble attributes
COURTLY LOVE IN FRENCH WORKS 37
of the mediaeval * gentle ' knight, and all the reverential devo-
tion to woman which characterizes the chivalrous youth of all
times. It is, on the whole, the finest ideal to be found in the
. . . twelfth, thirteenth, or fourteenth century." l
1 Neilson, Origins, p. 198. I cannot see, as Professor Neilson does, any-
thing in the knight's remarks to indicate that the love of which he speaks
leads to marriage. His ideal in this respect is no higher, for instance, than
that of the knight in Machaut's Le Jugement dou Roy de Behaigne, in which
there is nothing to indicate that marriage is the end of the love discussed.
Notwithstanding this, the tone of all the knight's considerations in Les Cent
Balades is a very lofty one ; and the words quoted above, with the exception
noted, fittingly characterize the love-element in the work.
THE ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS
In the Miroiir de rOmme, Gower's great moral work, occur
Jadis trestout m'abandonoie
Au fol delit et veine joye ;
Dont ma vesture desguisay
Et les fols ditz d'amours fesoie,
Dont en chantant je carolloie. 1
Only two, however, of the poet's extant works are devoted to
love, the Cinkante Balades (in French) and the English Con-
fessio Amantis. We have no way of knowing whether or not
the "fols ditz " of the lines quoted comprise a part of the Cin-
kante Balades. But it is probable that the collection contains
poems written at various times throughout the poet's life, and
selected and arranged by him on the occasion of presenting
the book to Henry IV for the entertainment of the court. 2 The
Confessio Amantis, as the author tells us, was composed at the
command of King Richard II, who, in asking the poet to write
something new, furnished the theme and promised to accept
and read the book when finished. 8 The date of the poem in its
earliest form has been placed at 1 3QO. 4
1 Mirour de FOmme, 11. 27337-27341. The references are to The Works of
John Gower, ed. G. C. Macaulay, Oxford, 1899.
2 Kittredge, The Date of Chaucer's Troilus, Chaucer Society Publications,
1909, Appendix IV, p. 76. Note the poet's Dedication to the King, ii, st. 4 :
O noble Henri, . . .
For desporter vo noble court roial
Jeo frai balade.
8 Prologue to Confessio Amantis, First Version, 11. 51-53.
4 Works, II, xxi.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 39
The Cinkante Balades have been roughly divided by their
author into two parts. The first division includes Balades 15,
which are made especially for those who expect their love affairs
to be perfected in marriage. 1 They are addressed to ladies, and
express the happiness of the accepted lover, his vows of con-
tinued service, loyalty, and truth. The remainder of the fifty-
one (there are fifty-one instead of fifty, as the title indicates)
are " universal," and set forth the feelings of lovers in general,
whether the course of their love runs smooth or not. 2 The
second group may be further divided as follows :
1. Balades 6-40, 45, 47, are addressed by lovers to their
ladies. Of these, numbers thirty-two to thirty-seven are expres-
sions of devotion intended for certain occasions of the year :
numbers thirty-two and thirty-three for the New Year, thirty-
four and thirty-five for Saint Valentine's Day, thirty-six and
thirty-seven for May Day. All except number forty are of the
same nature : the lover complains of the lady's indifference and
of his own woes, assures her of his desire to serve her, and
begs for her favor. In number forty, the lover takes the lady
to task for her fickleness.
2. Balades 41-44, 46, are addressed by ladies to their lovers.
Number forty-one expresses the lady's doubts as to the truth
and loyalty of her wooer. Numbers forty-two and forty-three
are more outspoken, and openly accuse him of treachery. Num-
ber forty-four, on the other hand, is addressed to a lover in
whom she places her entire confidence, and whose love she
would rather be than to be Empress of Rome.
3. Balades 4850 discourse on the nature of love in the
1 " Pour ceaux q'attendont lours amours par droite mariage." I, 342.
" Selonc les propretes et les condicions des Amantz qui sont diverse-
ment travailez en la fortune d'amour." I, 343.
40 COURTLY LOVE
4. Balade 5 1 is addressed by the author to the Virgin. He
declares himself the servant of all ladies, but especially of her,
to whom none in life may compare. With all his heart he loves
and prizes her q . es tflorie
De bien, d'onour, de joie et de plesance.
This balade is an excellent example of the mystical expressions
of love and devotion to Christ and Our Lady in which the
language of chivalrous love was employed. 1
The Cinkante Balades are written on the French models,
and it is hardly necessary to say that the sentiments expressed
are the conventional ones. Cupid is alluded to as a neglectful
* Ore est yvern, qe soloit estre Mali ;
Ne sai pour quoi Cupide me desdeigne. 2
The classical conception of the god with his dart occurs in the
Ma dame, quant jeo vi vostre oill vair et riant,
Cupide m'ad ferru de tiele plaie
Parmi le coer d'un dart d'amour ardant,
Qe nulle medicine m'est verraie
Se VQUS n'aidetz. 3
In these lines appears also the conceit of the baneful influence
of the lady's eyes, as well as the fancy that she is the only
physician who can heal the lover's wounds. The superior
position of the lady is pictured in almost every balade ; in the
following, the idea is presented by means of the feudal figure :
Pour un regard au primere acqueintance,
Quant jeo la bealtd de ma dame vi,
1 For other instances of this in Middle English, see Boddeker, Altenglische
Dichtungen des Ms. Harleian 2253, Berlin, 1878, pp. 191, 192, 198, 218 ; Richard
Rolle and His Followers, ed. Horstmann, London, 1896, II, 354-366; Ancren
Riwle, ed. Morton, London, 1853, p. 338 (the story of the lady besieged
in an earthen castle and released by a king) ; Woohing of Our Lord, ed. Morris
for Early English Text Society, pp. 268 ff.
2 Balade 40. 8 Balade 27.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 41
Du coer, du corps trestoute m'obeissance
Lui ai done", tant sui d'amour ravi :
Du destre main jeo 1'ai ma foi plevi,
Sur quoi ma dame ad resceu moun hommage
Com son servant. . . . l
The perfection of the lady, her coldness, and the lover's un-
worthiness are so often mentioned that quotation is unnecessary.
Of the balades devoted to the nature of love (48-50), number
forty-eight has for its refrain :
En toutz errours amour se justifie.
Love is the treacherous faith ; it promises much, but it brings
little in its hand. The idea is further expressed by an extended
list of the contradictory characteristics attributed to the passion
of love, a device which was a favorite with the poets. In
number fifty we have the convention of love's uplifting power :
De 1'averous il fait franc et loial,
Et de vilein courtois et liberal,
Et de couard plus fiers qe n'est leoun :
De 1'envious il hoste tout le mal.
Further details may be spared. 2 The observation of a critic
that the Balades " add another block of the polished common-
place to his [Gower's] literary monument," 3 is just; for there
is nothing but conventionality in the sentiment of the poems
from beginning to end ; and the conventions are those to be
met with over and over in the French poets. The noticeable
feature of the Balades is their finish. Lifeless as they are, they
prove the poet's ability to rival his French contemporaries in
giving expression to the courtly love ideas with grace and ele-
gance. This is as much as can be said for them. They are
what we should expect from a careful and painstaking poet,
1 Balade 23.
2 For an interesting summary of the Balades, see Works, I, Ixxvi-lxxvii.
8 W. P. Ker, Essays on Medieval Literature, London, 1905, p. 131.
42 COURTLY LOVE
endowed with talent, but not with genius, and perforce content
to fall in with the mode and make his erotic work " one more
concession to the ' tune of the time.' " l
The large use of conventional ideas in the Cinkante Balades
shows us what to expect in the Confessio Amantis. In so long
a poem, frequent repetition of such ideas is natural. No attempt
will be made, therefore, to list all the examples of the different
conventions found ; enough of the more striking illustrations
only will be cited to show the extent of the author's dependence
upon earlier love literature in the composition of his great erotic
work. The plot of the Confessio is as follows :
One day in May, when every bird has chosen his mate and
sings for pure joy of love, the poet fares forth to walk in the
fields and woods. But the joy of birds and the beauties of nature
accord but little with his feelings, for he is farther from his love
Than erthe is fro the heven above.
In the midst of the wood he finds a fair plain ; here he be-
gins to lament the sorrows which love has brought upon him.
After a time, he falls to the, earth and wishes for death ; but he
recovers somewhat from his pain, and looking up to heaven, he
prays to the god and goddess of Love to show him some grace.
Soon he sees them ; the king of Love is angry and passes him
by with a glance ; first, however, the poet is pierced to the
heart by the fiery dart of the god. Venus the queen remains
and asks him, though with " no goodly chere," who he is, and
bids him tell his malady. He replies that he is a man of hers
who has served long in her court,- and that he now asks as re-
ward some weal after his long woe. She frowns, and replies
that there are many who pretend to be her servants, yet have
1 W. P. Ker, Essays on Medieval Literature, London, 1905, p. 131.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 43
done nothing for her. Still she bids him show her all his sick-
ness, and he promises to do so if life lasts long enough. She
commands him first, however, to confess to Genius, her own
priest. Genius is called, and the confession begins, the lover
telling all he has felt for love's sake, both of joy and of sorrow.
After this lengthy ordeal, the lover asks the priest for advice
as to what course he shall pursue in his love affair. Genius
rather unfeelingly counsels him to labor no more in things
which bring no profit, and to give up love and be subject to the
law of Reason. At the lover's request, however, the priest
carries to Venus and Cupid a petition written with the suppliant's
tears. While the lover awaits the result, Venus suddenly ap-
pears at his side, and falling upon his knees he prays her for
grace. She asks his name and half scornfully advises him to
make a " beau retrete " while he can, for his age and hoary
locks clearly show that he is unfit to be a lover. At this the
poet grows suddenly cold and falls in a swoon. While he lies
there, all the world of gentle folk who have formerly been
lovers pass before his eyes. There were Tristram and Isolde,
Lancelot and Guinevere, Jason and Creusa, Hercules and lole,
and many others. Conspicuous were
the four wyves
Whose faith was proeved in her lyves,
Penelope, Lucrece, Alceste, and Alcyone. Cupid, who heads
all this wonderful procession of lovers, then presses forward and
draws out the fiery dart. Venus applies a cooling ointment to
the wound. Reason now returns to the lover, and he is once
more sound and whole. He receives absolution from the priest ;
the queen presents him with a " pair " of black beads on which
are written in gold the words " For reposer." She advises him
to remain no more in her court, and bidding him adieu, she
is taken away, enveloped in a starry cloud. And so, with his
beads, the poet walks slowly homeward.
44 COURTLY LOVE
The setting of the Confessio Amantis, as it here appears, is
that of the conventional May Day poems. It should be noted
that no mention is made of a dream or vision, except that which
the lover had of the companies of lovers while in a swoon.
Something of the effect of a vision is produced, however, by
the sudden appearance of the god and goddess of Love while
the lover lies in agony on the ground, and the equally sudden
disappearance of Venus at the end of the poem. Except for
the omission of the dream or vision, the setting conforms to
the love-vision type.
Certain incidental features Gower has borrowed from other
writers. The contrast of the joyousness of the spring season
with the lover's sorrow goes back to the troubadours' lyrics. The
device of making famous lovers of old appear to the poet was
probably taken from the Prologue to the Legend of Good
Women. 1 The lovers themselves, as well as the four faithful
wives, are among the most familiar figures of mediaeval poetry.
The name of the priest, Genius, comes probably from the
Romance of the Rose, although it appears in the De Planctu
Naturae of Alain de 1'Isle.
The particular scheme of a confession was doubtless sug-
gested to the poet by the mediaeval manuals of confession, whose
object was to present in condensed and convenient form for the
use of laymen and clergy the teachings of the Church with re-
gard to repentance. 2 In such manuals, designed for edification,
1 For the relations between Gower's work and the Prologue in question, see
Bech, Anglia, V, 365-471. Cf. also The Works of Chaucer, ed. by Skeat, Oxford,
1894-1897, III, xl-xliii.
2 Mr. Macaulay states (Gower's Works, II, xi) that the idea of the con-
fession was doubtless taken from the Romance of the Rose. In a later article
(Cambridge History of English Literature, II, 150) he modifies this statement,
suggesting the influence of such works as William of Wadington's Manuel
des Pechies and its English translation by Robert of Brunne, and such other
combinations of stories as were used for the illustration of a moral truth. The
later suggestion certainly is the more nearly correct. There is little in the
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 45
the Seven Deadly Sins were the natural topic for treatment,
and the works which used them as a framework are numerous.
Such treatises as Le Somme des Vices et des Vertzis of Friar
Lorens (translated by Dan Michel under the title of the Ayenbite
of Inwit\ the Prick of Conscience, and Chaucer's Persones
Tale, occur at once to our minds. Differing from all these were
the Manuel des Pec hies and Robert of Brunne's English ver-
sion of the same, the Handlynge Synne. 1 This work is inter-
spersed with tales designed for the illustration of the particular
sin under discussion.
The employment of exempla or illustrative tales was extremely
common in the mediaeval pulpit. So also in the confessional,
the priest often needed some anecdote to explain the nature of
the sins concerning which he questioned his penitent, and it was
to meet his need that such manuals as Robert of Brunne's were
compiled. What these manuals, with their stories, were to the
Church, the Confessio Amantis would have been to priests of
Love, if any such priests had really existed. The parallel must
have been part of the poet's intention and cannot have escaped
the notice of his readers.
Romance of the Rose to suggest the situation in the Confessio Amantis except
the name of the priest, and the fact that there was a confession. The shrift
which Nature there makes to the priest, Genius, has nothing in common with
the confession of the lover in Gower's poem. The first part of the interview
between Nature and her confessor, in the Romance, is a savage attack, not by
Nature at all but by the priest, upon womankind ; and the second part, which
is the confession proper, is made the medium through which Jean de Meung
displays his learning, and conveys his ideas on such subjects as astronomy,
optics, natural phenomena, free will, necessity, destiny, and what makes a
gentleman. This, of course, gives no suggestion of Gower's confession, which
proceeds in the orderly fashion of a real shrift before a real priest, with its
alternate questions and replies.
1 " The Handlynge Synne forms a sort of prototype to the Confessio Amantis,
inasmuch as in both cases a large number of tales are narrated in exemplifica-
tion of the Deadly Sins, albeit the wrongdoing is of a different character, and
the tales for the most part are of a different style " (Schofield, English Liter-
ature from the Norman Conquest to Chaucer, New York, 1906, p. 416).
46 COURTLY LOVE
The plan of the work, then, is a lover's confession of his sins
against Love ; the prevailing general conception of the love
deity is, therefore, the ecclesiastical one. In the setting, a
double personification is used, and Venus and Cupid appear to-
gether, a feature frequently found in the French love-visions.
The part which Cupid plays, however, is subordinate to that of
Venus throughout. It is her priest who hears the lover's con-
fession ; it is her court in which he serves ; and she it is who
heals the wounds made by Cupid's dart. She is
the source and welle
Of wel or wo, that schal betide
To hem that loven.
It is to her, therefore, that the lover appeals for grace. Cupid
does nothing of any consequence except to pierce the lover, near
the beginning of the poem, and to pull out the dart, just before
the close. This proceeding on the part of the god is, as Bech
aptly remarks, " eine hochst iiberflussige manipulation, da ja
Gower vorher bereits vor liebesweh seufzt." 1
Though the prevailing idea is ecclesiastical, no one metaphor
is consistently sustained in the setting of the story. It changes
from the feudal to the ecclesiastical and back again without
any reason. When the lover, overcome by his pain and grief,
praye , e
Unto the hevene, and seide thus :
O thou Cupide, O thou Venus,
Thou god of love and thou goddesse,
Wherispite? (i, 122-126.)
He has no sooner finished his prayer than the divinities appear
to him as the
king of love and qweene bothe (i, 139).
The classical conception of the god appears in Cupid with his
fiery dart, with which he pierces the heart of the lover. The
l Anglia, V, 367.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 47
figure becomes the feudal one again, when Venus bids the
despairing lover tell her who he is, and he replies :
Ma dame, I am a man of thyne,
That in thi Court have longe served,
And aske that I have deserved
Some wele after my longe wo" (i, 168-171).
Yet, when she bids him confess his sins to her priest Genius,
the ecclesiastical figure is again employed. And all these
changes occur in less than one hundred lines. This confusion,
which is seen throughout the early part of the poem, appears
again toward the close, where Venus excuses the lover from
attendance on her court, immediately after which the priest
grants the absolution demanded.
In the main part of the poem, that is, in the confession and
the incidental stories, the use of the ecclesiastical figure is limited.
The feudal convention, on the other hand, is employed largely,
and allusions to it are frequent. The lover, acknowledging his
jealousy of more fortunate wooers, says :
Whan I the Court se of Cupide
Aproche unto my lady side,
Of hem that lusti ben and freisshe,
Thogh it availe hem noght a reisshe,
Bot only that thei ben in speche,
My sorwe is thanne noght to seche (ii, 39-44).
Later he speaks of
these lovers that
Ben poursuiantz fro yeer to yere
In loves Court (ii, 237-240).
The confessor warns the lover against Detraction :
In loves Court a man mai hiere . . .
That many envious tale is stered. . . .
If thou have mad such janglerie
In loves Court, mi Sone, er this,
Schrif thee therof (ii, 443-454).
48 COURTLY LOVE
Referring to the patience of Socrates, the confessor humorously
remarks : If it falle in eny stede
A man to lese so his galle,
Him oghte among the women alle
In loves Court be juggement
The name bere of Pacient (iii, 702-706).
Speaking of talebearers, he says :
* And suche adaies be now fele
In loves Court, as it is seid,
That lete here tunges gon unteid (iii, 828-830).
He advises the lover not to be " foolhasty" :
Thogh thou to loves Court poursuie,
Yit sit it wel that thou eschuie
That thou the Court noght overhaste,
For so miht thou thi time waste (iii, 1673-1676).
Venus is referred to as
Which loves Court hath forto reule (iv, 1262-1263).
Prowess of knighthood is exalted as,
to love sufficant
Aboven al the remenant
That unto loves court poursuie (iv, 2017-2019).
Love lays down his law with regard to largess :
What man wol noght be felawe
To yive and spende, . . .
He is noght worthi forto duelle
In loves Court to be relieved (v, 4864-4867).
In his discussion of " gentilesse," the confessor remarks :
Bot for al that, yit now aday
In loves Court to taken hiede,
The povere vertu schal noght spede,
Wher that the riche vice woweth (iv, 2278-2281).
Describing the man addicted to somnolence, the confessor warns
the lover :
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 49
and in such wise
He doth to love all his service ;
I not what thonk he schal deserve ;
Bot, Sone, if thou wolt love serve,
I rede that thou do noght so (iv, 2741-2745).
It should be noted that, except in the setting, no attempt is
made to use either Venus or Cupid consistently as the love deity.
The personality changes from one to the other without any
reason. Either or both may be used in any story, or in any
single part of the confession. In attributing characteristic traits
to the divinity, Gower hardly discriminates between the two.
Thus Love is described as a being of irresistible power :
For love is lord in every place,
Ther mai no lawe him Justine
Be reddour ne be compaignie,
That he ne wole after his wille
Whom that he liketh, spede or spille (v, 4556-4560).
Of Pyramus and Thisbe it is said :
Cupide hath so the thinges schape
That thei ne mihte his hand escape,
That he his fyr on hem ne caste (iii, 1351-1353).
The god is represented as punishing those who attempt to re-
sist. Gower heads that part of his treatment of Pride devoted
to Surquidry with the lines :
Qui magis astutus reputat se vincere bellum
In laqueos Veneris forcius ipse cadit.
Sepe Cupido virum sibi qui presumit amantem
Fallit, et in vacuas spes redit ipsa vias.
The priest warns the lover :
If thou refuse
To love, thou miht so percas
Ben ydel, as sometime was
A kinges daughter unavised
Til that Cupido hire hath chastised (iv, 1238-1242).
50 COURTLY LOVE
The king's daughter was Rosiphelee, who refused to be affected
by the tender passion,
Til whanne Venus the goddesse, . . .
Hath broght hire into betre reule
Forth with Cupide and with his miht, . . .
For he that hihe hertes loweth, . . .
Cupide, which of love is godd,
In chastisinge hath made a rodd
To dryve awei hir wantonesse (iv, 1262-1278).
We may observe that Gower's " Rosiphelee " is a version of the
story told in Andreas's work by the knight to the lady who
would not be persuaded to love.
Lovers pray to the divinity for grace in their love affairs, or
for help in their troubles. The lover made angry by those who
by their lies hinder him in his suit for his lady's favor, can wish
them nothing worse than that they may fare in love as he does ;
he declares : For that schal j alway beseche
Unto the mihti Cupido
That he so muchel wolde do ...
To smyte hem with the same rodd
Withe which I am of love smite (iii, 906-91 1).
Progne, overcome by her own sorrows and those of her sister,
makes a vow that the treachery of Tereus shall be avenged :
And with that word sche kneleth doun
Weping in gret devocioun :
Unto Cupide and to Venus
Sche preide . . . (v, 5817-5820).
In the hands of this deity is the weal or woe of all lovers.
The lover recognizes this when he denies that he is guilty of
avarice in love
If I that tresor [his lady's favor] mihte gete,
It scholde nevere be foryete
That I ne wolde it faste holde
Til god of love himselve wolde
That deth ous scholde parte atuo (v, 69-73).
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 51
According to the whim of the god, weal or woe is dealt out.
Sometimes he is a beneficent god. Venus is gracious to
Pygmaleon ; for of ^ penance
He made such continuance
Fro dai to night, and preith so longe
That his preiere is underfonge,
Which Venus of hire grace herde (iv, 415-419).
Speaking generally, the confessor remarks :
The god of love is favorable
To hem that ben of love stable (iv, 442-444).
This deity is capable of feeling pity. Touched by the devotion
of Iphis and lante, he
Tok pite for the grete love,
And let do sette kinde above,
So that hir lawe mai ben used (iv, 489-491).
Both Cupid and Venus showed favor to Viola, who was cursed
with an avaricious husband :
This yonge lusty wyht . . .
. . . was wo bego withal,
Til that Cupide and Venus eke
A medicine for the seke
Ordeigne wolden in this cas (v, 4823-4829).
With their help, the generous Croceus supplanted the niggardly
Babio, and the bowe bende
Which Venus tok him forto holde
And schotte als ofte as evere he wolde (v, 4858-4862).
Oftener, however, the god or goddess is unfavorable to lovers.
At the very beginning of his work, Gower says :
. He [i.e. Love] yifth his graces undeserved,
And fro that man which hath him served
Fulofte he takth aweye his fees,
As he that pleieth ate Dees (i, 51-54).
The idea occurs over and over again throughout the Confessio
Amantis ; and it is often embodied in the representation of
52 COURTLY LOVE
Love as a personality who is unjust, neglectful, or deceitful.
Thisbe, seeing the dead body of Pyramus, reproaches Venus
and Cupid for their injustice :
O thou which cleped art Venus
Goddesse of love, and thou Cupide, . . .
This Piramus, which hiere I se
Bledende, what hath he deserved ?
For he youre heste hath kept and served. . . .
Helas, why do ye with ous so? (iii, 1462-1470).
Similarly, the lover, commenting on his own lack of success,
complains of Cupid's injustice :
Bot this I se, on daies nou
The blinde god, I wot noght hou,
Cupido, which of love is lord,
He set the thinges in discord,
That thei that lest to love entende
Fulofte he wole hem yive and sende
Most of his grace ; and thus I finde
That he that scholde go behinde,
Goth many a time ferr tofore (iv, 1731-1739).
Sometimes the god is neglectful of his votaries. The con-
fessor warns the lover not to give way to despair :
Mi Sone, of that thin herte siketh
With sorwe, miht thou noght amende,
Til love his grace wol thee sende (iv, 3502-3504).
Iphis, brought to despair because he did not speed in his love
for Araxarathen, bewails his case :
O thou Cupide, o thou Venus, . . .
On you is ever that I crie,
And yit you deigneth noght to plie,
Ne toward me youre ere encline (iv, 3558-3565).
But it is the deceitfulness of Love that Gower remarks upon
more than any other quality. Speaking of the part Venus
played in the case of Albinus and Rosemund, he identifies her
with Fortune :
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 53
Bot sche which kepeth the blinde whel,
Venus, whan thei be most above,
In al the hoteste of here love,
Hire whiel sche torneth, and thei felle
In the manere as I serial telle (i, 2490-2495).
She is represented as playing a similar role when the lover
speaks of his own fortunes :
The trewe man fulofte aweie
Sche [Venus] put, which hath hir grace bede,
And set an untrewe in his stede (viii, 2377-2384).
Cupid too is a deceiver. Through him Geta was supplanted in
Almeene's affections by his friend Amphitrion.
Whan he [Geta] best wende have ben above
And sikerest of that he hadde,
Cupido so the cause ladde
That whil he was out of the weie,
Amphitrion hire love aweie
Hath take (ii, 2468-2473).
The power of Venus, acting as the goddess of carnal passion,
is shown in the story of the violation of Leucothea :
Venus which hath this la we in honde
Of thing which mai noght be withstonde,
As sche which the tresor to warde,
Phebum to love hath so constreigned
That he withoute reste is peined . . .
To coveite a maiden [Leucothea] (v, 6715-6722).
She appears in the same role in the " Marriage of Perithous,"
where she joins forces with Bacchus, and together they make
the Centaurs drunk with wine and lust, until the fair Hipotace
is carried off from her husband. 1
In giving expression to these conventional ideas, Gower does
not confine himself to the use of personifications. The attributes
of the all-powerful god or goddess are even more often expressed
1 vi, 506-510.
54 COURTLY LOVE
abstractly ; and the idea of the absolute dominion of love over
the lives of men and women occurs on almost every page. The
following passage, out of a great number, will suffice as an
illustration : And though a man be resonable,
Yit after kinde he is menable
To love, wher he wole or non 1 (iii, 389-391).
The doctrine of secrecy, which ordinarily occupies so promi-
nent a place in mediaeval love-poetry, is found also in the
Confessio Amantis. But it is not set forth with nearly so great
insistence as we might expect in so long a poem. This is partly
due to the fact that the hero and his lady are decent people
in whose affairs there is no real need for secrecy. But it is due
largely to the plan of the work itself. For Gower is treating of
the seven deadly sins conceived with respect to love, and in such
a scheme he seldom has occasion to mention secrecy at all. The
most pronounced expressions ef the doctrine occur in the sec-
tion on Advantance or Boasting. Here Gower begins with the
Statement : Estque viri culpa iactancia, que rubefactas
In muliere reas causat habere genas. 2
Upon the lover's protesting that he is innocent of the sin of
boasting, the confessor replies :
Mi Sone, I am wel paid withal ;
For wite it wel in special
That love of his verrai justice
Above alle othre ayein this vice
At alle times most debateth,
With al his herte and most it hateth (i, 2449-2455).
In telling of Jason and Medea's precautions against detection,
the confessor remarks :
For love is evermore in doute
If that it be wisly governed
Of hem that ben of love lerned (v, 3850-3852).
1 Cf. iii, 344-346, 1194-1195; vi, 317-318; viii, 153-158, 1761-1764.
2 Latin lines preceding i, 2399.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 55
A curious enlargement of the conventional idea of secrecy
is found in the confessor's treatment of the sins of the eye.
Many an evil man uses his eyes to find means of harming other
people, by seeing what he ought not to see.
And thus ful many a worth! knyht,
And many a lusti lady bothe,
Have be fulofte sythe wrothe,
So that an yhe is as a thief
To love, and doth ful gret mischief (i, 310-320).
The implication is, that love's observances demand secrecy, and
that whoever sees what he ought not in such affairs sins against
Love in so doing. It was this offense for which Laar was
Hire tunge he kutte, into helle
For evere he [Jupiter] sende hir forto duelle,
As sche that was noght worthi hiere
To ben of love a Chamberere,
For sche no conseil cowthe hele (iii, 823-827).
The last two examples not only set forth the doctrine of secrecy,
but they reveal an abhorrence of spies and talebearers, the fear
of whom we have found associated with the desire for secrecy
as far back as the troubadours. These pests were evidently at
work in the time of the confessor, for immediately after his
remarks upon the punishment of Laar, he says :
And suche adaies be now fele,
In loves Court, as it is seid,
That lete here tunges gon unteid (iii, 828-830).
A very interesting figure in the poem is that of the lady.
She is conventionally presented, in the main. Her position in the
background, her beauty, her superiority, her attitude toward the
lover these are all in accord with long-established precedents.
It is noteworthy that the physical charms of the lady are but
little dwelt upon by a lover who is so much in earnest in his
love as is Gower's hero. He seems to be much more interested
56 COURTLY LOVE
in her qualities of mind and heart. The sole description of her
person is appropriately connected with the delicacies upon which
the lover's heart feeds through the sight. When he comes where
the lady is, his eye taketh a fo<Je rf such ^
That him non other deynte needeth.
Of sondrie sihtes he him fedeth :
He [the eye] seth hirey^ of such colour
T\\a.tfreisshere is than eny flour;
He seth hire front is large and plein
Withoute fronce of eny grein,
He seth hire yhen lich an hevene,
He seth hire nose strauhgt and evene,
He seth hire rode upon the cheke,
He seth hire rede lippes eke,
Hire chyn acordeth to the face, . . .
He seth hire necke round and dene,
Therinne mai no bon be sene,
He seth hire handes faire and ivhyte,
He seth hire schapthe forth withal,
Hire bodi round, hire middel smal,
So wel begon with good array,
Which passeth al the lust of Maii (vi, 765 ff.).
The italicized words show without further comment the conven-
tional plan of enumerating the lady's features one by one, and
also the usual mediaeval ideas of feminine beauty.
Macaulay remarks apropos of this description of the lady's
person * that it "is not offensive, as such descriptions almost
always are." This is doubtless true ; details which might be
regarded as offensive are not mentioned, or if mentioned, not
dwelt upon. But Gower's description is not without sensual
suggestiveness ; note, for example, the lines :
For al this thing withoute wyte
He [the eye] mai se naked ate leste,
So is it wel the more feste
And wel the mor Delicacie (vi, 780-783).
1 Macaulay, II, xvi.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 57
And elsewhere the author is not averse to dwelling on the
sensual in his consideration of the lady's physical charms :
Somdiel I mai the betre fare
When I, that mai noght fiele hir bare,
Mai lede hire clothed in my arm :
Bot afterward it doth me harm
Of pure ymaginaccion ;
For than this collation
I make unto miselven ofte
And seie, " Ha lord, hou sche is softe,
How sche is round, hou sche is smal !
Now wolde god I hadde hire al
Withoute danger at mi wille ! "
To the beauty of the lady's character, no great amount of
space, comparatively speaking, is devoted by the author. The
plan of the work gives first importance to the lover's confession
as to his fortune in love ; anything which bears directly on this
element of the story is given prominence. For example, the
lady's coldness, as we shall see, is mentioned repeatedly. Her
good qualities of mind and heart, on the other hand, though they
appear in the course of the work, are not much dwelt upon by
the lover himself. Yet he gladly recognizes his lady's excel-
lences of character. The one quality which he most fondly
brings into prominence in speaking of her, is her discretion.
For fame, that can nothing hide,
Alday wol bring unto myn Ere . . .
How sche is fair, how sche is wis
How sche is womanlich of chiere.
" Governauruce," or a discreet and dignified self-control, was
a quality highly valued in ladies by their lovers. 1 The beauty
of discretion in this case is enhanced by the fact that the lady
is very popular with the opposite sex. She is beset by wooers ;
and, if the lover's opinion may be accepted as trustworthy,
1 Cf. Chaucer's Complaint to Pity, 11. 40-41.
58 COURTLY LOVE
they are not all actuated by the highest motives. Yet she
knows well how to fashion her conduct towards them. The
lover says :
Bot, Sire, as of my ladi selve,
Thogh sche have wowers ten or twelve,
For no mistrust I have of hire,
Me grieveth noght, for certes, Sire,
I trowe, in al the world to seche
Nis woman that in dede and speche
Woll betre avise hire what sche doth,
Ne betre, for to seie a soth,
Kepe hire honour ate alle tide,
And yit get hire a thonk beside (ii, 50-60).
And again :
And for men sein unknowe, unkest,
Hire thombe sche holt in hire fest
So close withinne hire oghne hond,
That there winneth noman lond.
Sche lieveth noght al that sche hiereth,
And thus fulofte hirself sche skiereth,
And is al war of " hadde I wist " (ii, 467-473).
As is usual in the love literature, the position of the lady with
regard to the lover is one of superiority. The figure employed
most frequently is the feudal one. The lover is her vassal and
her obedient servant. He shows his relation to her in the
With al that evere I may and can,
Sche hath me wonne to hire man (v, 4495-4496).
The service which such a relation entailed is constantly brought
And evere I love and evere I serve,
And evere I am aliche nerr (iii, 1 146-1 147).
Nouther yive ne behote
In rewarding of mi servise
It list hire in no manner wise (v, 5193-5195).
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 59
Attendant upon this service of his lady is a constant fear of
Men sein that every love hath drede ;
So folweth it that I hire drede
For I hire love (v, 6059-6062).
Before her, his humility is absolute. Though he knows that love
lurks in the heart of man, and every man is free to love, he does
not consider himself worthy to be loved, except in his lady's
I trowe ther be noman lesse
Of eny maner worthinesse
That halt him lasse worth thanne I
To be beloved (i, 1925-1928).
As a servant to his lord, so he remembers obedience to his
lady. No trained dog is so ready to "go lowe " at his master's
command as he is to do her will.
What thing sche bit me don, I do
And wher sche bit me gon, I go
And whanne hir liste to clepe, I come. . . .
I serve, I bowe, I loke, I loute,
Myn yhe folweth hire aboute ;
What so sche wole, so wole I (iv, 1157-1171).
The subject upon which the lover speaks most feelingly, be-
cause it concerns him most closely, is the attitude of the lady
toward him, and the treatment he receives from her. She is
cold, neglectful, and indifferent. She bids him not to speak to
her of love, but to choose another for his amie, averring that he
stands far from her grace. She will not even receive a gift from
him, lest he might have some small cause to hope. Yet she takes
gifts from others by way of friendliness, so that all speak well
of her. Everything the lover does to please her is fruitless. He
essays rondeaus, ballades, virelays, carols, but all in vain. She has
never yet given him a " goodlie word " as a recompense for his
love. She has his love " by large weight and great measure,"
60 COURTLY LOVE
and he has nothing of that for which he has paid so dearly with
his heart. She has never even said to him " grant mercy " to
lighten his pain.
Sche wolde noght hire yhe swerve
Min herte with o goodly lok
His condition he sums up in the words :
Min herte stant evere in o stede
And axeth besiliche grace
The which I mai noght yit embrace (iv, 57-59).
It will be needless to go through the numerous reiterations of
the idea of the lady's indifference to her lover's feelings. Ingen-
ious as some of the expressions are, the idea does not change,
but is always the conventional one. 1
Before leaving this feature, however, we should note Gower's
use of the allegorical figure of Danger. He follows the example
of the French writers in making a generous use of this figure
to set forth the coldness of the lady. Danger is the lover's
mortal enemy, and may well be called " sanz pite." He hinders
the lover in all things, and will not let the lady receive his suit.
He is always with her and gives an evil answer to all the lover's
prayers. So between the two there is deadly war. If he can
overcome Danger, his joy will then begin. But no man can
daunt this enemy with sword or weapon, nor enchant him with
any charm. One might not even steal the least look of one's
lady's eye if Danger saw it.
Of such cruel treatment the lover naturally complains, as every
lover was expected to do. When he sees and hears the " hevy
chiere " and the " hevy word " of his lady, he is " disesed " in
his heart. Yet his complaint is not to her. He keeps it all to
1 The idea is expressed, among others, in the following places : i, 2373-
2 375; "i 55> 63-70, 871-877; iv, 279-291, 2788-2813; v, 5190-5195.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 6 1
himself; for he dares not displease her by speaking of his sorrow.
He calls her to witness that he has never chidden her. On the
contrary, if it mihte her Uke)
The beste wordes wolde I pike
Whiche I cowthe in myn herte chese (iii, 499-501).
Yet in his heart he cries out against Fortune, because he does
not speed in his love.
The figure of first interest in the Confessio Amantis is the
lover himself. The lady interests and attracts ; but she remains
in the background. The confessor, one may say, is a piece of
the machinery of the poem. As the central figure, the lover is
intended by the poet to engage our sympathies in the recital of
his experiences, and in the confession of his shortcomings in
the religion of love.
Much is found in mediaeval love-literature, by way of reference,
allusion, and injunction, regarding the qualities which go to make
up the model lover ; but the plan of a confession to a priest of
love affords an opportunity of presenting an array of qualities
that might daunt even a Gawain with his " olde curtesye." In
general, the lover must avoid each of the seven deadly sins,
with the various divisions and subdivisions, and embrace the
opposite virtues. We may call to mind the passage in the Troilus
in which Chaucer is describing the ennobling effect of love upon
Thus wolde Love, y-heried be his grace
That Pryde, Envy, Ire, and Avaryce
He gan to flee, and every other vyce. 1
An interesting example of the use of this idea is to be found in
the story of the little Jehan de Saintre. 2 The Lady of the Fair
Cousins takes the little Jehan, then thirteen years old, whom she
has chosen as worthy of her favor, and whom she expects to
1 Troilus, iii, St. 258.
2 A. de la Salle, Histoire et Cronicque du Petit Jehan de Saintre et de lajeune
Dame des Belles Cousines, Paris, 1830, chap, v, pp. 20 ff.
62 COURTLY LOVE
model into a courtly lover and knight, and gives him detailed
instructions how to conduct himself. She puts before him the
nature of each of the deadly sins, and shows him why, as a
lover and a knight, he must avoid them all.
In considering the confessor's use of these sins and his appli-
cation of them to love matters, we must take into account the
fact that all, considered as sins against the Christian God, were
to be shunned by the courtly lover. But we must also keep in
mind that what would be a sin in the Christian religion, might in
some cases be a virtue in the religion of Love. In examining the
lover's confession, then, the following questions naturally arise :
1 . How far are the sins, considered as such from the Christian
standpoint, sinful in the religion of Love ?
2. How far is the confessor consistently a priest of Venus,
and how much does he let Christian teaching obtrude ?
3. How does his teaching accord with the courtly love ideas ?
4. What is the character of the lover, which would result from
following the priest's counsel ?
The first sin which the confessor takes up is Pride, and he
discusses it under five heads : Hypocrisy, Inobedience, Surquidry
or Presumption, Boasting, and Vainglory. The virtue corre-
sponding to Pride is Humility. Considered as a sin in a Christian
sense, Pride is to be shunned by all courtly lovers ; Humility,
on the contrary, is to be practised. Modesty is enjoined upon
lovers in Rule 8 of Andreas's shorter code. 1 The branches of
Pride in Love's religion have particular meanings. Hypocrisy,
as the confessor here applies it, is the deception of women in
order to gain their love. This is a sin against the god of Love,
and it is frequently denounced. A good example occurs in the
Romance of the Rose, where the god exacts hostages from the
lover as an evidence of his good faith. 2 In treating this topic,
therefore, Gower's confessor is a consistent priest of Venus.
1 Andreas, p. 106. 2 English Translation, 11. 2043-2060.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 63
The most obvious sense in which Inobedience could be con-
sidered as a sin from the Christian point of view would be with
reference to God. The parallel in the religion of Love would
be Inobedience to the god of Love. This application, however,
the confessor does not make until he reaches the discussion of
Surquidry. The other sense in which Inobedience might be
viewed as a sin in the Christian religion is with reference to
human beings in authority. This application the priest does
make in considering the sin from the standpoint of love, the
person in authority being the lady. Here, then, we have good
courtly love doctrine. Perfect and unfaltering obedience to his
lady was incumbent upon every lover. The confessor is, there-
fore, consistent with his office as a priest of Venus in enjoining
obedience upon his penitent, and his illustrative tale of Florent
Presumption, as the confessor applies it to love affairs, con-
sists in deeming oneself more worthy than one is. He is right,
therefore, in condemning it ; for though the courtly lover was
expected to be worthy of his lady's favor, yet his humility should
keep him from thinking himself to be so. The presumption
which would lead a lover to think he was loved when he was not
would likewise be a sin against Love. Disdain of Love, inspired
by presumption, the priest is right in saying, is the worst sin of
all against the god. It thus appears that Presumption and Ino-
bedience with reference to the god are practically identical. The
tale of Narcissus aptly illustrates them both. So far, then, the
confessor is consistent in his condemnation.
The two forms of the sin of Advantance, or Boasting, are
rightly condemned by a priest of Venus. For a lover to proclaim
his own merit in other than love affairs would be a violation of
the injunction relating to modesty given by the god. 1 To pro-
claim his merit in love would be an act of presumption. As
1 Andreas, Short Code, Rule 8, p. 106.
64 COURTLY LOVE
for boasting of favors received, this would be a violation of the
law of secrecy, which is everywhere enjoined. The confessor is
right in saying that Love hates Advantance above every other vice.
In the application of the sin of Vainglory to love, the priest
seems to strain things a little. The vainglorious man sets his
thought on the world and delights in new things, without ever
thinking that death is coming. So, the priest says, the lover
makes his songs and carols and does not think of death. But
why death ? The obvious parallel would be, seemingly, that the
vainglorious lover is flippant and forgets that at any moment
the god of Love may turn his joy to sorrow. As for the lover's
being light-hearted and merry, he had the god's own command
for this. 1 It looks here as if the poet were letting a little of his
own seriousness intrude in the counsel of the confessor. With
the exception of this slight inconsistency, however, it is clear
that all the prohibitions of the priest, with his concluding in-
junction to practise humility, fit well with the ideas of the
courtly system. And his advice so far, if followed, would make
a good courtly lover.
Envy, the second sin, manifests itself in five forms : Sorrow
for another's joy, Joy for another's sorrow, Detraction, False-
Semblant, and Supplanting. Like Pride, Envy, judged from the
Christian point of view, is to be shunned by the lover. The con-
fessor's statement gives a sufficiently good reason for this : " The
envious lover is not ' shapely ' to marry, for there is in him no
'matiere wherof he mihte do plesaunce,' because he always seems
* unglad.' The fire within him dries up the blood which should
flow kindly through his veins. ' Toward love, Envy is noght/
for he is moved by malice in all he does."
According to the religious convention, love is the gift of the
god. He inspires in a lover's heart affection for some particular
woman ; if she grants the lover her favor, it is because the god
1 Romance of the Rose, 1. 2275.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 65
puts it into her heart to do so. This being true, for a lover to
envy the joy of a man who has been favored when he himself
has not, would be a sin against the god. The confessor is right,
therefore, in condemning envy in love which manifests itself in
sorrow for another's happiness. For the same reason, joy for
another's sorrow is properly condemned.
The other three points of Envy, Detraction, Supplanting,
and False-Semblant, as the confessor applies them, are closely
related. Supplanting was expressly forbidden in Rule 3 of
Andreas 's shorter code. 1 As a corollary, False-Semblant and
Detraction as means of supplanting are violations of the same
law. Moreover, Slander is especially forbidden in Rule 9 of
the same code. We may note, in passing, the common sense of
the priest's remarks concerning Detraction. "A lover who finds
fault with his rival and detracts from his good qualities," says
the confessor, " only injures his own cause. The lady needs no
one to tell her of the faults of her wooers ; she probably knows
them. Furthermore, she will only think the less of the detractor
for his envy." The observation is true to human nature ; and
in matters of love the priest's advice with regard to speaking
unfavorably of one's rivals is good, whether for mediaeval or for
modern lovers. He is, therefore, consistent as a priest of Venus
in forbidding Envy with its five divisions and in commending
Charity as the " vertu sovereine."
The five ministers of Wrath, the next sin to be considered,
are Melancholy, Cheste or Chiding, Hate, Contek (which has
Foolhaste for chamberlain), and Homicide. In his application of
some of these sins to matters of love, the confessor is evidently
forcing things. As far as the general injunction to eschew wrath
and to practise patience is concerned, he is in accord with the
ideas of the courtly system. One of its fundamental principles
was that love easily obtained is not greatly appreciated ; and that
1 Andreas, p. 106.
66 COURTLY LOVE
the lover should, therefore, suffer, if not in patience at least in
submission, the ups and downs of his fortune. Patience would
be a measure of common sense, and it is upon this basis that
the confessor makes his injunction. Upon the same basis,
the vice of Cheste, or Chiding, in love is condemned ; for it
would indeed be a foolish lover who chid the lady whose favor
The tale of Canace, which the priest uses to illustrate the evils
of Melancholy, although it does this admirably in a general way,
illustrates much more forcibly another doctrine. Gower, through
the confessor, here voices one of his favorite ideas : that by
nature every man is amenable to love, whether he will or not ;
and that whoever works against nature is apt to come to woe.
Now Canace and her brother are only following the dictates of
nature when they are guilty of incest. The important lesson
the priest draws from the story is that
it sit every man to have
Reward to love and to his miht,
Ayein whos strengthe mai no wiht (iii, 344-346).
What nature hath set in her lawe,
Ther mai no mannes miht withdrawe (iii, 355-356).
The lesson which the priest professes to teach by the tale, namely,
the evil of Melancholy, follows as a corollary from this proposi-
tion. In venting his wrath upon his children, the father is guilty
of a sin against the god of Love, a perfectly just conclusion
for a priest of Love to arrive at. The logic of such a conclusion,
coming, as it does, from Gower the moralist, will be discussed
later in this study. 1
As for the other divisions of Wrath Hate, Contek, and
Homicide the author seems to be put to it to make them fit
into his scheme. Whom may a lover hate ? The confessor
1 See p. 85, below.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 67
says : "It would be better to hate no man, even though he had
hindered the lover. The lover should beware, however, of those
who hate him, for such hate is often disguised under a false
appearance " all of which is an admonition to caution on the
one hand, and to the exercise of Christian charity on the other.
As for romantic love, like Envy, " it is noght."
Contek and Homicide are closely related. What have these
sins to do with love ? The confessor's argument is : " Reason
often tells the lover that he ought to cease from his love ; but
Will urges him on to it. But Will should always be ruled by
Reason. For when Contek is in the heart, Will, overpowering
Reason, may lead to Homicide." Coming from a priest of Venus,
this is strange doctrine. The confessor is clearly confusing erotic
with Christian philosophy. To subject Will or Desire to the
control of Reason is the part of practical wisdom, but it is not
in the spirit of the religion of Love ; love, as the confessor
teaches elsewhere, stops at no bounds to attain its ends. Homi-
cide, as the result of unrestrained passion, is a manifestation of
the power of the god of Love ; when it becomes suicide, as it
does in the illustrative story of Pyramus and Thisbe, it exalts the
victim of his own madness to the rank of martyrdom in the
service of the god.
Sloth is the next sin taken up ; it has seven points : Lachesse,
Pusillanimity, Forgetfulness, Negligence, Idleness, Somnolence,
Despondency. The poet is on safe ground in his application of
the sin of Sloth and its divisions. This vice is bad in the pursuit
of anything valuable, and certainly in the pursuit of love. It is
largely on the basis of common sense that the priest condemns
the sin with its subdivisions. He has opportunity, in considering
these, to give some very sensible and practical counsel, which does
not always accord with courtly love ideas ; and also to give some
which is not so sensible, but none the less thoroughly in the
spirit of the courtly system.
68 COURTLY LOVE
Lachesse, which in the Christian sense means slackness in
the service of God, 1 the priest interprets as meaning, in a lover's
case, postponing his pursuit of the lady's favor. This he con-
demns, and his condemnation is in accord with courtly ideas.
The lover was supposed to be in constant service of his lady,
and to beseech her favor in and out of season ; as Pandarus says,
ever in oon be fresh and grene
To serve and love his dere hertes quene,
And thinke it is a guerdon hir to serve
A thousand-fold more than he can deserve. 2
"Unknowe, unkist, and lost that is unsought." 3 This implies
that the lover must not be pusillanimous.
When, however, the confessor's strong practical sense leads
him to condemn a lover's fear to tell his love, his teaching is
contrary to the conventional ideas. Under the courtly system,
the proper humility of the lover always made him fearful in his
lady's presence, especially in the matter of declaring his passion.
Similarly, in his condemnation of Forgetfulness, the priest de-
parts from courtly conceptions. The lover's confusion in his
lady's presence was supposed to make him forget half of what
he had to say. The god in the Romance of the Rose remarks
to the lover: n n'iert ja si apenses
Qui en ce point n'oblit asses
S'il n'est tiex que de guile serve. 4
Again the confessor's common sense makes him vary from the
Of course, Negligence, as the priest explains the term, would
be a sin against Love. Every lover was supposed to know the
art of love. Such manuals as the Romance of the Rose were
designed to teach this very thing.
1 Chaucer, Persones Tale, sect. 59. 8 Ibid., st. 116.
2 TroiluS) i, st. 117. 4 Romance of the Rose, 11. 2491-2493.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 69
In his observations on Idleness, the confessor is in full agree-
ment with conventional ideas. The principle that love is the
duty of all young people has a prominent place in the book of
Andreas. The injunctions with regard to the lover's going on
expeditions into foreign lands, in order that his fame may reach
the ears of his lady, are in line with courtly love principles.
Andreas teaches that love is to be the reward of noble deeds ;
and his teaching is reflected constantly in the other erotic litera-
ture. The confessor's remarks on Courage and Manhood lead
him to the " inevitable discussion of the nature of ' Gentilesse '
and how far it depends upon birth, riches, or personal merit." l
Gower's conception of Gentilesse, as voiced by the confessor,
differs much from that of such poets as confine themselves
strictly to the courtly view ; but all agree that the lover
must possess the quality in question.
As to Somnolence, the confessor's remark,
Love and slep acorden noght (iv, 3 1 86)
is good courtly love philosophy, and merely expresses the
conventional idea long present in the love literature.
Despair, in the Christian sense, was one of the worst of sins ;
for in despairing of God's mercy the sinner put himself beyond
the power of God to save him. 2 In much the same sense the
confessor applies the sin to love, and he is right in condemning
it. For, to quote his own words,
I not what other thing availeth
Of hope whan the herte faileth (iv, 3507-3508).
Of Avarice, the next sin, the confessor says, in effect : Avarice
renders a man a slave to his gold. It makes him strive to get
more and more, and to let nothing go. This vice must be shunned
by every lover who hopes for his lady's favor ; and he must use
1 Macaulay, II, 508. 2 Chaucer, Persones Tale, sect. 56.
70 COURTLY LOVE
largess and give for his love's sake. It is natural that a lover
should be a slave to Love ; but there is a form of avarice in love
that is a great evil. This is Jealousy. As the avaricious man is
in constant fear that his gold will be stolen, so the jealous man
is never at peace for fear of having his treasure taken from him.
Thus he makes both himself and his lady miserable. Love hates
nothing more than the sin of Jealousy.
Avarice has eight servants :
1. Covetousness. The evils of Covetousness are illustrated
by the stories of Virgil's Mirror, The Two Coffers, and The Two
Pasties and the Beggars. The moral of the last two is that
though a man covet love, yet shall he not obtain more than
Fortune has allotted him. Some there are, however, who covet
every woman they see, because something in her pleases them.
Other lovers covet women, not because of their beauty or vir-
tue, but for their riches. Such love must be condemned ; only
pure love shall last. Marriages made for money are a great evil ;
but riches may sometimes be a help in love affairs. Perjury
and False-witness often work in the service of Covetousness.
Treacherous lovers frequently beguile women by swearing faith-
ful service to them. Such men are worthy neither to love nor
to be loved.
2. Usury. The usurer in love gives as little as possible, and
takes all he can get.
3. Parsimony or Scarceness. Stinginess never accords with
love, and the stingy lover often changes the coat for the hood.
Judicious giving accomplishes much, and meed keeps love in
4. Ingratitude. The ungrateful lover is he, who, when he has
had what he will of love, begrudges giving anything in return.
5. Ravine. As some take other men's goods without payment,
so some lovers force women to their desires. Such conduct is
against Love's law.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 71
6. Robbery. The robber forces women to his will when he
meets them in lonely places.
7. Stealth. Lovers sometimes take kisses or other things by
8. Sacrilege. Lovers are guilty of sacrilege when they use
occasions of worship to whisper, sigh, and ogle.
All these servants of Avarice the lover must avoid ; he must
cultivate the virtue of Largess, which is a mean between Prodi-
gality and Avarice. The prodigal lover spends and wastes his
love by bestowing it on many women.
The remarks of the confessor with regard to Avarice are
such as might be expected from any exponent of the prin-
ciples of the courtly system. Avarice was unalterably opposed
to love. Andreas has a law to the effect that love and avarice
cannot dwell together, 1 and many allusions to the incompati-
bility of the two occur in his work. A positive statement of
the principle is repeatedly found in the literature of love, in the
insistence upon generosity as a qualification of the true lover.
The three qualities most commonly demanded of lovers are
Prowess, Courtesy, and Largess. The vice of Avarice, to which
all men may be addicted, is the one especially to be shunned
In making the special application of Avarice to love, the con-
fessor departs a little from the courtly ideas. His assertion that
Love hates nothing more than jealousy is not quite in accord
with the courtly tradition, one of the principles of which was
that he who does not become jealous does not love. 2 The con-
fessor's description of the jealous man, however, applies rather
to the husband than to the lover ; and if he means to restrict his
assertion to the relation between man and wife, it is directly in
1 Andreas, p. 310.
" Ex vera zelotypea affectus semper crescit amandi." Andreas, Longer
Code, No. 21, p. 310.
72 COURTLY LOVE
line with the courtly doctrine, which held that jealousy could
not, or at least should not, exist in marriage. 1
The application of the different points of Avarice to love
accords on the whole with the courtly system ; but the priest
sometimes finds it necessary to force things. For example, in
the consideration of Covetousness, the conclusion to which he
comes, that though a person covet love, yet he shall obtain only
what has been allotted to him by Fortune, is obviously far-fetched.
On the other hand, the observations with regard to a lover's
coveting more than one woman are good courtly doctrine. Con-
stancy or Steadfastness was a virtue always insisted on, and the
light and easy transference of affection from one person to
another was abhorrent to the votaries of courtly love.
The confessor's strictures on marriages made for money
probably express Gower's personal views. In the courtly sys-
tem, marriage was deemed of little consequence, so far as love
itself was concerned ; and it is certain that many a marriage was
contracted for no other object than to obtain riches.
The condemnation of treacherous lovers is, of course, a
commonplace in all courtly love literature. What has already
been said regarding Avarice in general, applies equally well to
1 Although jealousy is made a necessary condition of love in Andreas's
philosophy, the love poets are not at all agreed on this point. The character
Esperance, in Froissart's Paradys d 'Amours, remarks that, although some who
know much about loving hold that without jealousy there can be no love, yet
in her opinion it is neither fair nor good, and ought to be shunned by all lovers.
We may compare with this Criseyde's pathetic remarks :
Eek al my wo is this, that folk now usen
To seyn right thus, "ye, Jalousye is Love! "
And wolde a busshel venim al excusen
For that o greyn of love is on it shove !
But that wot heighe god that sit above,
If it be lyker love, or hate or grame ;
And after that, it oughte bere his name (Troitus, iii, st. 147).
Many similar expressions could be cited to show that not all writers agreed
with Andreas on this point.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 73
Parsimony. Ravine and Robbery, as the confessor uses the
terms, are practically identical, and are contrary to the law of love
in any system. 1 Of the remarks on the other four points, those
on Usury and Ingratitude are forced, while those on Stealth and
Sacrilege are not only forced but childish. Just why stealing
kisses should be a sin against Love is hard to see. One fears
the poet's austerity is speaking here. Certainly this is true with
regard to what he says about Sacrilege. The confessor of Venus
has again become the Christian priest, and the observations
would be far more fitting in the Mirour de VOmme than in a
work dealing with romantic love.
In considering the sin of Gluttony, the confessor wisely limits
himself to two points, Drunkenness and Delicacy. His discus-
sion of even these two is not particularly happy. Why should
Love's priest condemn love-drunkenness ? The more intoxicated
with love one is, the greater is the manifestation of the god's
power. Here the confessor returns to the relation between
reason and love, which was discussed under Wrath. As in that
connection, so here he is overstepping the bounds which a
priest of Venus should observe. And though on the basis of
wisdom his condemnation of intoxication is appropriate, yet it
is quite out of place on the lips of Love's confessor.
The remarks on love-delicacy, too, are more those of a
Christian priest than we should expect, coming as they do from
a priest of Love. Considered from the standpoint of courtly
love, the condemnation of a man's forsaking his wife for other
1 Under the latter of these two sins, the poet's teaching reaches the height
of absurdity. He takes occasion to commend virginity and to preach the
beauty of this virtue both in men and women. As illustration, he tells the tale
of Phirinus, who put out his own eyes to enable him to keep himself chaste.
In only one other place is the confessor so absurd ; that is, in his survey of
the different religions of the world (v, 747-1970), where he "occupies himself
in demolishing the claim of Venus to be accounted a goddess, and that too
without even the excuse of having forgotten for the moment that he is supposed
to be her priest" (Macaulay, II, xx).
74 COURTLY LOVE
pleasures is all wrong. The same is true with regard to the
lover's demanding the ultimate favors.
Two sins remain to be treated by the confessor, Unchastity
and Incest. The former does not receive a separate considera-
tion in the Confessio Amantis ; but Chastity is treated as the
fifth point of that Policy which teaches kings how to govern
their kingdoms. Chastity is, therefore, according to the priest,
one of the virtues which should be found especially in kings.
Chastity, according to the teaching of the Church, was of
three kinds : chastity in marriage, by which the wife was true to
her husband ; chastity in widowhood, by which a widow, or a
woman who had been guilty of illicit love, kept herself clean ;
and chastity of virginity. 1 It is the first of the three which
the priest discusses. His remarks have nothing to do with
the confession of the lover ; the author, speaking through the
confessor, is giving his ideas on the duties of sovereigns and
intends, perhaps, to deliver a lecture through the medium of his
book to the young King Richard. In treating Incest, he adopts
the teaching of the Church. Hence he denounces marriage
within the third degree, as well as guilty love of women " of re-
ligion," which the Church regarded as incest. 2 All this has
nothing to do with the lover's shrift. The confessor has already
treated the subject of Incest as a priest of Venus, in the story
of Canace (under the head of Melancholy) ; he here considers
it from the point of view of a Christian moralist.
We may briefly summarize the confessor's teaching in the
following terms. He is in accord with the courtly love ideas
in condemning six of the deadly sins Pride, Envy, Wrath,
Sloth, Avarice, and Gluttony. Incest, which he also condemns,
comes under the head of Lechery, but this latter sin as a whole
he does not treat. Of the divisions of these several sins, as
1 Chaucer, Persones Tale, sect. 77-84.
2 See Mirourde rOmme, 11. 9085 ff.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 75
applied especially to love, those belonging to Pride and Envy
are rightly denounced by a priest of Venus. Of the divisions of
Wrath, none have any direct connection with the courtly ideas.
Chiding is censured on grounds of common sense. The con-
demnation of Melancholy proceeds rather from the particular
view of love held by the author ; while Hate, Contek, and
Homicide are looked at from the Christian point of view.
Under the head of Sloth, Lachesse, Pusillanimity, Negligence,
Idleness, Somnolence, and Despondency are all contrary to the
spirit of courtly love, and the confessor rightly speaks against
them. He departs from that spirit, however, in his treatment of
Forgetfulness, and of one phase of Fear as he defines it, con-
demning both on grounds of common sense. Five of the phases
of Avarice he is right in reprehending as a love priest. His
remarks, on two of them, Usury and Ingratitude, are so trivial
that they mean nothing, judge them from whatever standpoint
we will. Stealth and Sacrilege are prohibited, the former be-
cause of the austerity of the poet, the latter because of his
Christian zeal. Under Gluttony, Drunkenness and Delicacy
are both considered from the Christian point of view, as are
also the last two sins, Unchastity and Incest.
What, now, would be the character of the lover who should
follow the priest's counsel ? Before answering this question, we
must disregard all the offenses which the confessor judges by
the Christian standard (except, of course, the seven principal
sins themselves). Thus we exclude Hate, Contek, Homicide,
Stealth, Sacrilege, Love-Drunkenness, Love-Delicacy, Un-
chastity, and Incest. Omitting these absurdities, we find that
the confessor's counsels, if followed, would result as follows :
The lover would be humble, charitable, patient, courageous, and
generous. His humility would keep him from presumption, and
make him obedient to his lady. He would be innocent of be-
guiling other women ; and he would not be guilty of boasting or
76 COURTLY LOVE
of frivolity. He would not resort to detraction or " f alse-semblant "
in order to supplant another lover ; indeed, he would not be
guilty of the sin of " supplanting " at all. He would keep his
love engagements with promptness. He would not fear to speak
his love to his lady, nor would he forget what he had to say
when he attempted to speak. He would know all the art of love.
He would show his love by his deeds of prowess and would
seek fame in distant wars. He would not sleep while others were
merry ; indeed, his love would allow him little sleep at any time ;
but he would never grow despondent nor despair. He would
shun jealousy. He would not force favors from any woman ;
and his constancy to his own lady would prevent him from even
desiring such favors except from her. But for his attitude
toward his lady in the matter of Fear and Forgetfulness, he
would be a genuine courtly lover, and all his conduct would
bear the stamp of " gentilesse."
From this description of the courtly lover we may pass to
other related conventions which appear frequently in the Con-
The favorite idea that love ennobles a man's character is well
expressed by Genius :
For evere yit, it hath be so
That love honeste in sondri weie
Profiteth, for it doth aweie
The vice, . . .
It makth curteis of the vilein,
And to the couard hardiesce
It yifth, so that verrai prouesce
Is caused upon loves reule
To him that can manhode reule ; . . .
I trowe that ther is no beste
If he with love scholde aqueinte,
That he ne wolde make it queinte
As for the while that it laste (iv, 2296-23 15). 1
1 Compare also the story of the False Bachelor, ii, 2586 ff.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 77
The conventional notions as to the effect of love upon the
feelings occur frequently. Love is a malady so grievous that it
" might make a wise man mad if it should long endure." 1 Very
often it is described in general terms of pain and woe. 2 In his
lady's presence the lover is confused and timorous ; he loses his
memory and even his power of speech. 3 In shriving himself of
forgetfulness, he remarks that, when he is about to see his lady,
he rehearses in his mind many things to say, but when he
comes where she is he forgets them all, because he is so
afraid of her. 4 Sleeplessness from love is mentioned again and
again : the confessor even tells a tale to illustrate the doctrine
that " love and slep acorden nought." 5 A good summary of
the lover's symptoms may be found in the lines which describe
the passion of the maiden of Pentapolim for Apollonius :
Thenkende upon this man of Tyr,
Hire hert is hot as eny fyr,
And otherwhile it is acale ;
Now is sche red, nou is sche pale,
Right after the condicion
Of hire ymaginacion.
Sche stant for love in such a plit,
That sche hath lost al appetit
Of mete, of drinke, of nyhtes reste,
As sche that not what is the beste (viii, 845-860).
There remain to be noted a few conventional ideas in Gower's
work which do not admit of particular classification. A conceit
which was a favorite with Chretien, that love attacks the heart
through the eyes, occurs in the Confessio Amantis. Genius ad-
vises the lover to guard the eyes, for through them, as through
gates, such " sotie " comes to a man as may make his love
1 Confessio Amantis, i, 130-131. a Ibid., vi, 718 if.
3 Ibid., i, 559-567 ; iv, 355-362.
4 Ibid., iv, 557-587. 5 Ibid., iv, 3186.
78 COURTLY LOVE
Fulofte thilke firy Dart
Of love, which that evere brenneth
Thurh him [the eye] unto the herte renneth (i, 322-324).
Chretien's idea of the enmity of one's own eyes appears in
the lines : And thus a mannes yhe f erst
Himselve grieveth alther werst (i, 325-326).
Another doctrine of Chretien, that lovers' hearts remain together,
though their bodies are separated, is reflected in the words of
the lover : Thus ate laste l go to bedde>
And yit min herte lith to wedde
With hire, wher as I came fro ;
Thogh I departe, he wol noght so,
Ther is no lock mai schette him oute,
Him nedeth noght to gon aboute,
That perce mai the harde wall ;
Thus is he with hire overall (iv, 2875-2882).
Gower is fond of describing love in terms of contradictions,
after the manner of the well-known eighty-eighth sonnet of
Petrarch. The following are a few of the many examples :
Est amor egra salus, vexata quies, pius error,
Bellica pax, vulnus dulce, suave malum. 1
Love is the unsely jolif wo (i, 88).
And thus soffre I the hote chele
Which passeth othre peines fele ;
In cold I brenne, and frese in hete,
And than I drinke a bitter swete (vi, 247-250).
Gower's most elaborate use of the conceit is found in the Latin
verses entitled Carmen de variis in amore passionibus breviter
comfiilatum .* ~ .
Est amor in glosa pax bellica, lis pietosa,
Accio famosa, vaga sors, vis imperiosa,
Pugna quietosa, victoria perniciosa,
1 Macaulay, II, 35.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 79
Regula viscosa, scola devia, lex capitosa,
Cura molestosa, gravis ars, virtus viciosa,
Gloria dampnosa, flens risus et ira iocosa,
Esca venenosa, fel dulce, fames animosa,
Vitis acetosa, sitis ebria, mens furiosa,
Flamma pruinosa, nox clara, dies tenebrosa,
Res dedignosa, socialis et ambiciosa,
Garrula, verbosa, secreta, silens, studiosa,
Fabula formosa, sapiencia prestigiosa,
Causa ruinosa, rota versa, quies operosa,
Urticata rosa, spes stulta, fidesque dolosa. 1
Some features which perhaps may not be properly classed
under the head of conventions, but which, nevertheless, were
not original with Gower, may here be mentioned. The use of
Genius as the confessor has already been referred to as taken
from the Romance of the Rose. The contest in which Wit and
Reason are pitted against Will and Hope (in, 1157-1192) is,
as Macaulay remarks, " quite in the style of the Roman de la
Rose, where Reason and the lover have an endless dispute." 2
A variation of the idea is found in the controversy between the
priest and the lover, the result of which is told in the lines :
Mi resoun understod him wel,
And knew it was soth every del
That he hath seid, but noght forthi
Mi will hath nothing set thereby (viii, 2191-2194).
The representation of love as an insatiable thirst was common. 3
The story of the two tuns of Jupiter appears in the Romance of
the Rose, but Gower has modified the original, making Cupid,
instead of Fortune, the butler, and using the whole to express
1 Macaulay, I, 392. 2 Ibid., II, 496.
8 Note, for instance, the following from Watriquet de Couvin :
M'est vis que pis m'en soit,
Et que plus bui et plus oi soit,
Si qu'en bevant fui touz ravis.
La Fontaine d* Amours, 11. 175-177.
80 COURTLY LOVE
the thought, frequently employed by him, that love is a matter
of chance. The three cooks, Sight, Hearing, and Thinking,
who cater to the lover's appetite for delicacies, remind one
of the Dous-Penser, Dous-Parler, and Dous-Regard of the
Romance of the Rose.
The large array of conventional ideas and sentiments pointed
out in the foregoing pages is only indicative of a much larger
mass, which comprises practically all that part of the Confessio
Amantis that is devoted to the treatment of love. Is there any-
thing in the work, we are naturally led to ask, which lifts it above
mere conventionality? Does it show any of that vital quality
which we might expect to find in a story of love ? Deep, earnest
passion, to be sure, it does not express ; the plan and object of
the work forbid. What made the book attractive to its readers,
apart from its moralizing elements, was the large number of well-
told tales which it contains. The story of the lover's fortunes,
while interesting, was no doubt secondary in importance, both
for the author and for his contemporaries. Still, in the two main
characters, the lover and his lady, there is both human quality
In the lady, as Macaulay remarks, " we recognize a creature
of flesh and blood, no goddess indeed, as her lover himself ob-
serves, but a charming embodiment of womanly grace and refine-
ment. She is surrounded by lovers, but she is wise and wary.
She is courteous and gentle, but at the same time firm ; she will
not gladly swear, and therefore says nay without an oath, but it
is a decisive nay to any who are disposed to presume. She does
not neglect her household duties, merely because a lover insists
upon hanging about her, but leaves him to amuse himself how
he may, while she busies herself elsewhere. If she has leisure
and can sit down to her embroidery, he may read to her, if he
will, but it must be some sound romance, and not his own roun-
dels, balades, and virelays in praise of her. Custom allows him to
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 8 1
kiss her when he takes his leave, but if he comes back on any
pretext and takes his leave again, there is not often a second
kiss permitted. She lets him lead her up to the offering in church,
and ride by her side when she drives out, but she will take no
present from him, though with some of her younger admirers,
whose passion she knows is a less serious matter, she is not so
strict but takes and gives freely. Her lover suspects that her soul
may be in a perilous state, seeing that she has the power of sav-
ing a man's life and yet suffers him to die, but he admits there
is no more violence in her than in a child of three years old,
and her words are as pleasant to him as the winds of the South." l
The attractiveness of the picture cannot be denied. There is no
extravagance here, no idealization ; only the portrait of an every-
day woman, who is sensible as well as fair :
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food.
The general tendency of Gower to keep his feet on the ground
appears also in his portrayal of the lover. The practical common
sense of the answers which the lover gives to the confessor's
questions pleases us ; their perfect sincerity and frankness
awaken our sympathy. In the story of his love, as he tells it,
there is no deep passion which stirs us. Yet he retains our
interest, because we see in him a man who, in the pursuit of his
love, feels the same hopes and joys, and suffers the same dis-
appointments which a lover of to-day might experience. Thus
in spite of conventions, from which the author could not have
escaped had he desired, he has managed to depict in the lover
and the lady two figures which are thoroughly human.
It is with a distinct shock that we learn, having followed the
perfectly natural story of the lover's fortunes, that, after all, he
is only an old man whose "lockes hore " do not accord with
1 Macaulay, II, xvi.
82 COURTLY LOVE
" loves lust." We wish that the poet might have chosen a less
bungling way of ending his poem. Of course, it is necessary in
a love- vision, which Gower's poem practically is, to have the hero
dismissed in some manner from his interview with the god or
goddess. But he is usually dismissed with some word of approval
or with an injunction appropriate, in either case, to the part that
he has played throughout the story. Thus the lover in the Dit
dou Vergier is advised by the god who is departing :
Mais je t'apenray au partir,
Se tu vues aus dous biens partir,
Et estre garis de tes maus,
Que secrez soies et loiaus. 1
Similarly, the god of Love in the Romance of the Rose leaves
the hero with the injunction :
Good-Hope alway kepe by thy syde
And Swete-Thought make eek abyde,
Swete-Lokyng and Swete-Speche. 2
It is not unusual, too, for the author to appear in a love-vision,
and to be dismissed with a command. For example, in the Pro-
logue to the Legend of Good Women, the poet is ordered at the
close to write his Legend. Machaut likewise appears by name
in \h&Jiigement dou Roy de Navarre? and is dismissed by the
king with the command to write certain poems in certain metres.
In the first two instances, the hero is left a lover as he has been
throughout ; in the last two, the heroes are poets at the end as
they have been from the beginning. In the Confessio, on the
other hand, after being led to think of the hero as a young man,
A lovyere and a lusty bachelere,
we are confronted with the statement that it is only John Gower,
the gray-haired old poet. The spectacle of " olde Grisel " growing
1 Ll. 1191-1194. 2 English Translation, 11. 2941-2943.
8 This is not a love-vision; but is modelled on such love-poems as the Phyllis
and Flora. It will therefore serve well enough for illustration.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 83
cold about the heart and lying there in a swoon for love, is in-
congruous, to say the least. A poet with more imagination and
with less desire to make clear the fact that his chief interest was
in moral affairs, 1 would certainly have devised a more attractive
conclusion for a poem which, in its main features, is not without
We must now inquire into the nature of the love which is
treated in the Confessio Amantis. Being familiar with Gower's
aversion to all moral obliquity, we should not expect to find the
sensual element prominent in his work. The end of the lover's
passion, we may infer from the general tone of the story (though
nothing is said on this point), is possession of the lady in mar-
riage. We have already noted, however, some passages which
are suggestive of the more earthy nature of his love. In the
illustrative stories, love is repeatedly identified with physical
passion. Thus :
Anon the wylde loves rage,
In which no man him can governe,
Hath mad him [Helmege] that he can naght werne
Bot fell al hoi to hire assent (i, 2620-2623).
Be daie bothe and ek be nyhte,
Whil thei be yonge, of comun wone
In chambre thei togedre wone,
And as thei scholden pleide hem ofte,
Til thei be growen up alofte
Into the youthe of lusti age,
Whan kinde assaileth the corage
With love and doth him forto bowe,
That he no reson can allowe,
Bot halt the lawes of nature (iii, 148-157).
1 Cf. the injunction of Venus :
Mi sone, be wel war therfore,
And kep the sentence of my lore
And tarie thou mi Court nomore,
But go ther vertu moral dwelleth,
Wher ben thi bokes, as men telleth (viii, 2922-2927).
84 COURTLY LOVE
Anything approaching Platonic love, however remotely, is not
to be found in the Confessio Amantis. The author's own view
probably was, that love, if not identical with physical passion, is
based upon it and largely influenced by it. This view, together
with his decided leaning towards fatalism, 1 leads him over and
over again to emphasize the irresistible character of love. For
Love is maister, wher he wile (i, 35).
For loves lawe is out of reule
And though a man be reasonable
Yet after kinde he is menable
To love wher he wol or non (iii, 389-391).
Bot love is of so gret a main
That where he taketh an herte on honde
Ther mai nothing his might withstonde (vi, 90-92).
Such expressions are apt to occur whenever love is mentioned.
Taken in connection with these facts, Gower's repeated use
of the conventional idea that love is entirely under the dominion
of chance, has more than conventional significance. At the
beginning the author, speaking in his own person, says :
For if ther evere was balance
Which of fortune stant governed,
I may well lieve as I am lerned
That love hath that balance on honde,
Which wol no reson understonde (i, 41-45).
Passages like this strengthen the impression which the poet
manifestly endeavors to make, that in the hands of his physical
passions man is utterly helpless.
We may, perhaps, now see some reason for Gower's leniency
toward certain faults which otherwise his moral austerity would
lead him unequivocally to condemn. Critics generally have
1 The frequency with which phrases like " as it scholde " and " as it scholde
be " occur in the work, leaves no doubt as to the poet's belief in the doctrine
of fate. See iii, 1222, 1348, 1677; iv, 92, 1542; vi, 995, 1026, 1613, 1702.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 85
wondered at his condoning the sin of the brother and sister in
the tale of Canace. " We are completely at a loss," writes ten
Brink, " to know what to think of the ' moral ' Gower's logic,
when, in the story of Canace, he blames indeed the rage of the
father, but excuses the incest of the children on the ground of
strong natural impulse." l From what has been said, it will
appear, I think, that the poet's excuse of the children's sin is
not at all illogical, even on the part of a moralist. If it be true,
as the author seems to believe, that human beings under certain
circumstances are powerless to resist the impulses of their na-
tures, and if at the same time human actions are largely deter-
mined by fate (as Gower also believed), for the poet to condone
the sin of incest under the circumstances is not only logical,
But apart from any personal views which Gower may have
held on such questions, he would no doubt have had a ready
answer for those who might accuse him of inconsistency. He
could have replied that he was here setting forth the doctrines
and ideas of romantic love (with which, as we shall see, Gower
felt but scant sympathy). If these doctrines lead to such a situ-
ation as is seen in the tale of Canace, and the priest of Venus
condones the sin of incest, it is, Gower might say, speaking as
a moralist, all the worse for romantic love. He could rightly
shift the responsibility for any immoral teachings in the tale
from his own shoulders to those of the confessor of Venus.
However, Gower's belief on the question is a sufficient expla-
nation of his treatment of the sin ; and it was doubtless sufficient
justification to him for including in his great collection of stories,
not only the Canace, but also the Apollonius, against both of
which the Man of Lawe remonstrated. 2
1 Ten Brink, History of English Literature, translated by Kennedy, New
York, 1893, Vol. II, pt. i, p. 135.
2 Prologue to Man of Lawe's Tale> 11. 77-89.
86 COURTLY LOVE
Interesting to note in this connection is another view of
Gower's, quite at variance with the teachings of the Church, of
which the poet was a stanch supporter. The Church, while it
glorified marriage, 1 and commended the part that woman took
in the lawful relations between the sexes, yet regarded her
generally with suspicion, since she tempted man by her beauty,
and caused him to sin. The woman, according to the Church's
teaching, was strictly responsible for any evil effects her beauty
might have. A good expression of this teaching is found in the
Ancren Riwle : "Vorj>i was ihoten a Godes half ifen olden
law }>et put were ever iwreien, & gif eni unwreie put were, &
best feolle per inne, he hit schulde gelden pet ]?ene put unwreih.
pis is a swupe dredlich word to wummen j>et scheawep hire to
weopmones eien. Heo is bitocned by )>e J?et unwriep J>ene put."
And the writer goes on to say that the woman's face, her white
neck, her trivial eye, her hand, and anything belonging to her,
whatsoever it be, " ]?urh hwat muhte sonre ful luve aquiken " is
the pit. And whenever her beauty awakens guilty love in a
man, even though she does not know it, she thereby uncovers
the pit, and she shall be responsible for the man's sin. " Hund
wule in blipeliche hwar se he ivint hit open." 2 Now Gower
comes out flatfooted against this doctrine.
For in the woman is no guile
Of that a man himself bewhapeth ;
Whan he his oghne wit bejapeth,
I can the wommen wel excuse :
But what man wole upon hem muse
After the fool impression
Of his ymaginacioun
Withinne himself the fyr he bloweth,
Wherof the womman nothing knoweth,
So mai sche nothing be to wyte (vii, 4266-4275).
1 Cf. Persones Tale, sect. 77.
2 Ancren Riwle, ed. Morton, pp. 58-60.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 87
And he goes on to say that if a man drown himself, it is not
the fault of the water ; if men covet gold, the gold is not to blame.
It is natural for a man to love ; but it is not natural for a man
to lose his wits.
Another question of interest remains to be considered : What
was the poet's attitude toward the courtly love ideas ? He leaves
us in very little doubt as to the answer to this question. In the
first place Gower, in one or two places, makes his views perfectly
clear on certain important doctrines of the courtly system. The
confessor speaks :
For thou miht understonde and wite
Among the gentil nacion
Love is an occupacion
Which for to kepe hise lustes save
Scholde every gentil herte have (iv, 14501454).
The poet's marginal note shows his own position on this point.
It reads :
Non quia sic se habet veritas, set opinio amantum.
Speaking of the effects of love, the confessor says :
For evere yit it hath be so,
That love honeste in sondri weie
Profiteth, for it doth aweie
The vice, and as the bokes sein,
It maketh curteis of the vilein
And to the coward hardiesce
Ityifth (iv, 2296-2301).
The words and as the bokes sein are doubly significant as indicat-
ing the conventionality of the idea, and as intimating Gower's
desire to dissociate himself from the sentiments expressed.
We have already observed that the confessor's good sense
sometimes led him to make suggestions in regard to certain
points of love, which run counter to the courtly theories. For
example, the conventional idea that a lover should be struck
88 COURTLY LOVE
with fear in the presence of his lady, and should forget every-
thing he had to say in his own behalf, the confessor meets
with the practical argument : " He who fails to speak, loses all.
As a man pursues love, so fortune follows. As for forgetfulness,
no grace is to be obtained unless it be asked." And he advises
the lover, who confesses that he has sinned in this matter, to
" pull up a busy heart " and not to let any chance to speak
escape him. 1
Another courtly notion which the poet opposes is that lovers
must approve themselves in arms. The lover argues that little
or no good can come from passing over the seas and slaying
the heathen. It would be better to spend time in converting
them in harmony with Christ's command than in slaying them
for the sake of glory. As for himself in particular, it would be
very foolish of him to cross the seas to fight Saracens, if in the
meantime he lost his lady at home.
The good sense which the lover manifests in this argument
is characteristic of him throughout the work. In portraying him
the author evinces his own sentiments toward courtly love.
Gower utilizes the conventions freely. Yet there emerges a
figure which is very different from the usual courtly lover. The
confessor sets before him, as we have seen, the qualities which
the courtly lover should have ; the hero falls short of the ideal
in many points. The confessor recites in detail the sins which
a lover should avoid ; the penitent admits that he is in many
respects a grievous offender. Throughout he is far less romantic
than the traditional lover, but he is far more human. A similar
departure from the courtly type appears in the lady. She is a
creature to be loved, but she is not the perfect being who is set
upon a pedestal and worshipped. She is indifferent to the
lover's passion, but her coldness is a matter of principle and
not of caprice. She is far from being " the abstract divinity of
1 See bk. iv, 1. 723.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN GOWER'S WORKS 89
the old lyric convention." 1 The homely quality in these two
pictures is highly significant. Obviously Gower found little to
his taste the extravagances of his predecessors in their delinea-
tion of the ideal lover and his amie.
Adulterous love, which was inherent in the courtly system,
Gower frankly condemns.
The Madle is mad for the female,
Bot where as on desireth fele,
That nedeth noght be weis of kinde. . . .
Forth! scholde every good mon knowe
And thenke how that in manage
His trouthe plight lith in morgage,
Which if he breke, it is falshode,
And that discordeth to manhode (vii, 4215-4229).
Here the moralist speaks with no uncertain voice. This is
the doctrine he teaches in his Traiti^ which he wrote, as he says,
" touchant lestat de matremoine dont les amantz marietz se
pourront essampler a tenir la foi de lour seintes espousailes." 2
The examples he uses as warnings are such stock lovers as
Hercules, Jason, Helen, and others who took delight in wanton
love. Contrary to the old courtly idea that love and marriage
are incompatible, he exalts marriage and speaks rather slight-
ingly of love par amours : " Men see that the love par amours
is seldom without troubles arising from false envy and jangling.
But love leading to marriage dares show its face openly in all
places. It is a great wonder that maidens do not hasten to
that feste, whereof the love is al honeste (iv, 1473-1484).
Elsewhere he is even more outspoken. The heading of the
Traitit reads : " Puisqu'il ad dit ci devant en Englois par voie
d'essample la sotie de cellui qui par amours aime par especial,
dirra ora apres en Francois a tout le monde en general un traitie"
1 W. P. Ker, Essays on Medieval Literature, p. 123.
2 Macaulay, I, 379.
90 COURTLY LOVE
selonc les auctors pour essampler les amantz marietz, au fin
q'ils la foi de lour seintes espousailes pourront par fine loialte
guarder, . . ." l As the poet, at the end of the Confessio, de-
clares that his Muse bids him to write no more of love which
turns the heart from reason, and that he will therefore take his
final leave of such love, so in this statement, which can refer
only to the Confessio, he condemns completely the ideas put
forth in that work. This is nothing more than we should expect
of a man in whom the practical was so prominent, a man who
decided to treat the subject of love only after having concluded
that it was a task greater than he could compass to stretch his
hand up to the heaven and set the world in order. 2
1 Macaulay, I, 379. 2 Confessio Amantis, i, 1-5.
THE ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS
In examining the element of love in Chaucer's works, 1 we
shall, for the sake of convenience, make a division of the poems
which is purely arbitrary.
In the first group will be included those poems which are
entirely lyric in quality, and which were composed on French
models. This group falls into two parts : (i) those pieces which
contain little or nothing but ideas common in the conventional
love poems of contemporary French writers; and (2) those
poems which, though in form following French models, are
infused with the personality of the poet, and are written in the
racy style characteristic of Chaucer at his best.
The second group consists of the Complaint of Mars and the
Anelida and Arcite. They are classed together because of a
certain similarity of structure, each of them containing a narra-
tive portion followed by a lyric in the French style.
The third group comprises The Book of the Duchess, The
House of Fame, and The Parliament of Fowls. These all have
the form of the love-vision, common in Old French poetry.
The fourth group consists of the Troilus and the Legend of
The fifth and last group contains such parts of the Canterbury
Tales as we may have to consider.
1 The references are to the Oxford Chaucer, ed. by Skeat, Oxford, 1894-
2 The form of the Prologue to the Legend would justify us in classing it with
the third group ; but the arrangement here adopted seems better on account
of the close connection between the Legend and the Troilus.
92 COURTLY LOVE
In this arrangement, no account has been taken of chronology,
and yet the order of the poems mentioned is roughly chrono-
logical. With the exception of the second subdivision of the
first group, poems which must have been written towards the
end of Chaucer's life, the order of the pieces is not far from
the order in which they were composed.
CONVENTIONAL LYRIC POEMS
The Complaint to Pity
The Complaint to Pity belongs to the large class of pieces in
which the poet-lover laments the rigor of his lady. By trans-
lating the allegory into its underlying meaning, we shall make
the conventional elements clearer :
The poet is unfortunate in his love. Although he is true and
constant, the lady does not look with favor on his suit. This lady
is the possessor of all the good qualities of the perfect being :
Bountee parfit, wel armed and richely,
And freshe Beautee, Lust and Jolitee,
Assured Maner, Youthe and Honestee,
Wisdom, Estat, and Dreed, and Governaunce.
One of her attributes, too, is pity, which however has not been
spent on the unhappy lover (11. 29-32). It is the conventional sit-
uation : a lady beautiful in person and character is cold and cruel
to her devoted servant, and he utters his complaint. The " bille "
itself, reduced to a single statement, is the lover's appeal for
mercy and for relief from his woes. Other conventionalities may
be seen in the idea of the malevolence of Love, conceived as a
personality (11. 4-6) ; in the lover's woes and pains, his service,
and his declaration of its continuance (11. 113-116).
The allegory is well sustained ; briefly stated, it is : The poet,
driven by pain of love, composes a bill of complaint against
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 93
Cruelty, which he intends to present to Pity, the " coroune of
vertues alle." The charge is, that Cruelty, strengthening herself
by an alliance with Bountee, Gentilesse, and Courtesy, and dis-
guising herself in the shape of Womanly Beauty, has usurped
the place of Pity in the realm of Feminine Virtues. Because of
her being deposed, Manner and Gentilesse are of no avail, and
Truth (representing the lover) can receive no help in his adver-
sity. Wherefore, he begs Pity to break this " perilous alliaunce "
and reassert her rights. Else shall lovers who have sought her
grace be in despair.
This " bille " he intended to present to Pity ; but after seeking
her for many years, he at length found her dead and " buried
in a heart." About the hearse stood Beauty, Lust, Jolitee, As-
sured Manner, Youth, Honesty, Wisdom, Estaat, Dread, and
Governance. But none of them showed any sorrow for the death
of Pity, for all were
Confedered bothe by bonde and alliaunce
with Cruelty, who had plotted to slay all lovers, and particularly
the poet. Realizing that it would avail him nothing to complain
to his foes, he puts up his " bille " and continues to suffer, feeling
that for him the world is lost.
The poem is thoroughly in the style of the love lyrics of
Deschamps and Machaut. There is some ingenuity displayed in
the allegory ; but it is no greater than we have seen in the French
poems noticed earlier in this study. The language and ideas are
all conventional, and the piece is very probably a translation or
an adaptation of some Old French poem now lost.
A Complaint to His Lady
The story of the Complaint to Pity might serve equally well
for the Complaint to His Lady. The situation is the same. Both
belong to the class of poems in which the lover laments his hard
94 COURTLY LOVE
fate in love, caused by the coldness of the lady. A mention of
the well-known conventions of love-poetry which appear in the
Complaint will make clear the spirit of the piece.
Love is a personality ; he is the deceptive god, who has brought
the lover into his present trouble. As in the Romance of the
Rose, the god has used his darts on the unfortunate lover, and
after thus subduing him, has taught him his art :
Thus am I sleyn with Loves fyry dart,
I can but love hir best, my swete f o ;
Love hath me taught no more of his art
But serve alwey, and stinte for no wo.
The lady is endowed with all excellent qualities, but her sur-
name " Faire Rewthelees " indicates that she is lacking in the
gentle virtue of pity. She recks not whether her lover floats or
sinks ; nor does she deign to think on his woe, or in any wise
to take heed of the heavy life he leads for her sake. The more
he loves her, the less (he finds) she cares for him, the more she
makes him " smerte " ; wherefore, he sees that he may in no
wise escape death.
Until death relieves him, however, the lover determines to
serve his lady ; and whatsoever woe he suffers, she shall not drive
him from her service. He is the least worthy of all the servants,
good or bad, that such a fair being must have ; all he asks is to
be allowed to serve her as best he can, for he is not so rash nor
so mad as to desire that she, who is so good, love him, who is so
little worthy. He is obedient to her as a servant to his master.
No one living would more gladly fulfil her heart's wish than he,
and had he power equal to his will, she should see how fain he
is to add to her pleasure.
He undergoes the sufferings incident to such a passion : his
sorrow keeps him awake ; the long night, when every creature
should have its rest, he spends in lamenting that nothing but
death may relieve him from his sorrow.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 95
Here again, as in the Complaint to Pity, none but conven-
tional ideas are found ; and the language is equally conventional
with the ideas. The piece is devoid of any mark of the poet's
personality, either of that tone of sincerity which is felt in
his best lyrics, or of that humor which he often employs in so
charming a manner in his later work.
The Complaint of Venus
In utilizing the balades of the French poet Granson, Chaucer
has made an interesting change. Instead of putting the words
in the mouth of a lover, he has made the lady the speaker. In
so doing, he has not employed any idea or language that was
not conventional ; but it is interesting to note what changes
were necessary. These appear in the following summaries of
the two poems. 1
1. No comfort is so great when I i. No comfort is so great when I
am in sorrow, as to think of the man- cannot speak to my lady, as to think
hood, worthiness, truth and stead- of her worth and her sweet womanly
fastness of him, whose I am entirely, deeds. She is my life ; no one can
and always shall be. No one ought blame me, for every one praises her.
to blame me, for every one praises
his " gentilesse."
2. In him, more than any one can 2. In her, more than any one can
guess, dwells beauty, wisdom, good guess, is bounty, beauty, and grace,
conduct ; he is the flower of knight- It is a great blessing that the gods
hood, the soul of honor and of have assembled all good in so small
nobility. a place. Honor wishes to honor her
above all. Never have I seen so
sweet, so pleasing, so noble a woman.
1 In these, the language of the summary of Chaucer's poem is used in that
of the French poem, as far as is possible in a faithful rendering of the ideas of
3. Notwithstanding all his worthi-
ness, he is humble and gentle before
me, and is attentive to serve and
honor me in all things. I ought to
bless my good fortune; for every-
body praises his " gentilesse."
1. It is fitting, Love, that men
should pay dearly for what you give ;
they must wake when they should
sleep, fast when they should eat,
weep instead of laugh, complain in-
stead of sing ; they must cast down
their visages, and often change their
color ; they must complain while they
sleep, and dream when they should
2. Jealousy spies upon every-
thing, and turns all, however reason-
able, to harm. Love is dearly
bought ; he gives inordinately ; but
he gives little pleasure, and much
3. Love's gift is pleasing for a
while ; but " ful encomberous is the
using " ; for jealousy disturbs lovers,
and causes them fear, and suffering,
i. But I do not say this, Love,
as though I wished to escape from
your power. I have been in your
service so long that I will never leave
it, no matter how jealousy torments
me. It is sufficient for me to see
him when I may; I will always be
true to him.
3. Wherever she is, she does
good, and effaces evil. She knows
well how to laugh and to play. She
brings delight and " solace " to all.
None can refrain from looking at
her; and her look is worth all the
wealth of a kingdom.
(Chaucer's version is here a suf-
ficiently close translation of Gran-
son's verses to render it unnecessary
to epitomize the latter.)
But be certain, Love, that I do
not say this as wishing to escape
from your power. I have borne my
martyrdom so long, that, while I live,
I will endure it. It suffices me to have
so much of " solace " as comes from
seeing my fair and gracious one. Al-
though she be " dangerous," I will
never cease to serve her.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 97
2. And certainly, Love, when I 2. And certainly, Love, when I
consider the " estate " of men, I see consider the " estate " of men, I see
that you, through your generosity, that you have made me choose the
have made me choose the best on best possible love. Therefore, my
earth. Therefore, my heart, love on ; heart, love on ; for you will never
let jealousy do its worst ; for I shall have pain so grievous on account of
never cease to love him. my lady, that I shall not be joyous ;
and I shall never cease to serve her.
3. My heart, it ought to be suf- 3. My heart, it ought to be suf-
ficient for you, that Love has shown ficient for you that you have chosen
such grace to you, that he has led her whom you have. Seek now
you to choose the worthiest in every neither kingdom nor empire ; for so
way. He is my sufficiency, and I will good a one you will never find, nor
not seek for any other. so fair a one will you ever see.
" C'est jeunesce sachant et savour-
Though she be disdainful of my love,
I will never cease to serve her.
Chaucer's poem is interesting as an example of the comparatively
small number of pieces in which the lady tells of her lover. We
note that he here has the usual characteristics expected of the
courtly lover ; namely, manhood, worthiness, " truth," steadfast-
ness, " gentilesse," bounty, wisdom, good conduct, honor, nobil-
ity in short, all virtues are his. Notwithstanding this, his
behavior toward her is that of a humble servant, and this behavior
he consistently maintains.
If we turn to the French poem, we find the lover singing of
the good qualities of his mistress ; these are the conventional
ones of bounty, beauty, grace, worth (valour) all shown in
her womanly deeds. She is accomplished and brings happiness
to all with whom she comes in contact.
In the second balade, both poems enumerate the conventional
effects of love : sleeplessness, loss of appetite, weeping, sadness,
solitariness, and loss of color. Jealousy is execrated, and the
sad fact that the course of true love never did run smooth
98 COURTLY LOVE
In the third balade, the English again differs from the French.
The lovers of both poems congratulate themselves that Love has
made them bestow their affections in the best possible place.
But both are disturbed in their happiness ; the lady is bothered
by jealousy ; the man meets his usual enemy in the " daunger "
of his lady. Yet both alike vow to be true the lady will con-
tinue to love her lover, and the man to serve his mistress.
The conventionality of the two productions is alike, and
neither has the advantage over the other as regards cleverness.
Indeed, with the exception of the alterations made necessary by
the change of the speaker, Chaucer's poem, as he says, rather
word by word the curiositee,
Of Graunson, flour of hem that make in Fraunce.
Against Women Unconstant
In the French erotic poetry, especially in that of Deschamps,
there are a considerable number of pieces in which a lover, man
or woman, takes his or her love to task for some fault. One or
two examples we have seen in the Cinkante Balades of Gower ;
the ballade Against Women Inconstant is one of Chaucer's
contributions to this class.
Madam, on account of your " newe-fanglenesse," you have de-
stroyed many a lover's happiness. I am through with your fickle-
ness ; for I know that you cannot bestow your love in one place
half a year at a time.
Your love is like an image in a mirror, which comes and goes.
You are like a weather-cock that turns his face with every wind.
You deserve to be canonized better than Dalilah, Cressida, or
For ever in chaunging stant your sikernesse ;
To newe thing your lust is ever kene ;
In stede of blew, thus may ye were al grene.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 99
Compleint d' Amours
In the case of the Compleint cT Amours no analysis is nec-
essary. The piece does not contain an idea or a sentiment that
was not thoroughly conventional. The lofty position of the lady ;
her power over the lover's life and death ; her disdain of his
passion ; his feeling of unworthiness ; his protestation of service
till death ; his unwillingness to blame the lady for his woes ; the
conceit that the eyes are the lover's enemies ; the idea of send-
ing a complaint to the cruel one on Saint Valentine's Day,
all were the stock ideas of mediaeval love-poetry.
A Balade of Complaint Womanly Noblesse
Unlike the other lyrics so far considered, the Balade of Com-
plaint and Womanly Noblesse have a ring of sincerity that sur-
prises us, even though these poems come from the pen of
Chaucer. It is true that the sentiments expressed are conven-
tional, and that they are somewhat piled up besides. Still, both
poems produce an impression of genuine feeling. The second
piece in particular shows well the ability of the poet to stamp his
own individuality upon his work. There is a charm in the de-
light with which the lover exalts his lady's worth by addressing
her in the envoy in four different complimentary phrases, as
well as in the simple humility with which he recommends him-
self. The beauty of the expression, the music of the language,
the feeling of completeness which is left on the reader's mind,
are all delightful and admirable.
Auctor of norture, lady of plesaunce,
Soveraine of beaute, flour of wommanhede,
Take ye non hede unto myn ignoraunce,
But this receyveth of your goodlihede,
Thinking that I have caught in remembraunce
Your beaute hool, your stedfast governaunce.
100 COURTLY LOVE
The observations thus far made on Chaucer's early lyrics
have a further significance which it may be worth while to
point out before dismissing them from consideration. Some of
these poems have been taken to furnish evidence of a " long,
early, and hopeless " love-affair of the poet's own. 1 This view,
although revived of late by Mr. Coulton, 2 is now pretty thor-
oughly discredited, and arguments against it are hardly nec-
essary. 3 But we may observe that the utterly conventional
character of the pieces in question would go far to destroy any
confidence we might have in their autobiographical value. If occa-
sionally they ring true, this is accounted for by the genius of
Chaucer. The same dramatic power which he manifests every-
where in his narrative writing produces the conviction of truth
when he writes in the first person. But the fiction is none the less
to be recognized as such. Poets of the period were always writing
in the first person and complaining of the misfortunes of love. 4
Yet very few of their poems are held to express personal feeling.
The Confessio Amantis, which we have already considered, is an
instructive case in point. For here we appear to have an elabo-
rate story which we should accept as genuine if we accepted
Chaucer's. But Gower has prefixed a Latin note which forbids
such an interpretation : Hie quasi in persona aliorum, qtios amor
alligat, fingens se auctor esse Amantem, varias eonim passiones
variis hujus libri distinccionibus per singula s crib ere prop onit:*
1 See particularly FurnivalPs Trial Forewards to the Parallel Text Edition of
Chaucer's Minor Poems, 1871, pp. 12, 15, 31, 32, 34, 57, 58, 89-90, 92, and Notes,
pp. 112, 114, 119, 120; also Koch, The Chronology of 'Chaucer 's Writings, 1890,
pp. 7, 23, 25. 2 G. G. Coulton, Chaucer and his England, London, 1908, p. 23.
3 An effective argument against Dr. Furnivall's theory was made by Pro-
fessor Lounsbury in his Studies in Chaucer, New York, 1892, I, 210 ff.
4 Citatidns are hardly necessary, but reference may be made to the numer-
ous ballades, roundels, and complaints of Machaut, Deschamps, and Froissart.
With regard to the Cinkante Balades of Gower see Macaulay's ed., I, Intro-
duction, p. Ixxii. Another striking example is the Livre du Voir-Dit of Machaut.
Cf. the references given above on p. 34.
6 Macaulay's ed., II, 37, marginal note.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 101
LYRICS SHOWING THE POET'S PERSONALITY
Merciles Beaute a Triple Roundel
None but conventional ideas appear in the Merciles Beaute.
The conceit of beauty striking the lover's eyes and wounding his
heart, was a favorite one with the troubadours and Chretien de
Troies. To pass from the abstract to the concrete, and to make
a specific part of the lady's beauty, the eyes, the agent of the
lover's undoing, is but a step, which had been taken long before
Chaucer wrote. 1 The lady's ability to heal the wound, her power
over the life of the lover, and his certain death if she does not
intervene, are all familiar traits in Chaucer's predecessors.
In the second and third roundels, conventional allegory is
employed to express conventional ideas. In the second, the
theme is the common one of the lady's coldness. Danger has
bound Mercy in his chain, and Beauty has driven Pity out of the
heart. In the third, Love is a malevolent personality. Lovers
become lean from languishing in his prison. But the poet, thanks
to the lady's rejection of him, has escaped from his custody, and
has retained his flesh too. The contrast between the apparent
seriousness of the first two parts and the playfulness of the third
gives the poem its charm. It is a good example of Chaucer's
ability to work with materials and ideas which are thoroughly
1 For instance, in the roundel of William d'Amiens :
Jamais ne serai saous
d'esguarder les vairs ieus dous
qui m'ont ocis.
Bartsch, Chrestomathie de Pancien Fran^ais Leipsic, 1866, p. 315.
See also the lyric of the Proven?al Peirol (1189-1225):
Be m trahiron siey belh huelh
Cum a fals messatge
E m'an mes ins el coratge
S'amor don mi duelh.
Mahn, Die Werke der Troubadours , II, 23.
102 COURTLY LOVE
conventional, and yet to vitalize them with his own individuality.
Only Chaucer could have written :
Love hath my name y-strike out of his sclat,
And he is strike out of my bokes clene
Forevermo ; ther is non other mene.
Sin I fro Love escaped am so fat,
I never thenke to ben in his prison lene ;
Sin I am free, I counte him not a bene.
Balade to Rosemounde
The subject of the graceful Balade to Rosemounde is the
lover's protestations of devotion and service to the lady, even
though he receives no encouragement in his suit. The situation
is humorously pictured in the third stanza :
Nas never pyk walwed in galauntyne
As I in love am walwed and y-wounde ;
For which ful ofte I of my-self divyne
That I am trewe Tristam the secounde ;
I brenne ay in an amorous plesaunce.
Do what you list, I wil your thral be founde,
Thogh ye to me ne do no daliaunce.
He has his woes, and weeps, as a lover should ; yet the sight
of his lady's perfect beauty, her merry joyous bearing, and the
sound of her " seemly voys " heal his wounds, and it suffices
him merely to love her.
The attribution of perfect qualities of body and heart to the lady
is, of course, conventional. The idea of the lover's pain being
eased by a sight of her laughter and smiles ; the protestation of
perfect truth and continued service ; the sufficiency of love though
unrewarded, all these ideas are as old as the troubadours.
Though the sentiments are all conventional, the spirit of
Chaucer's treatment of them is his own. We catch a glimpse of
his individuality in the blending of the serious with the humorous,
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 103
which is so characteristic of him. In the ballade, whether he in-
tends to burlesque the extravagance of contemporary love-poetry,
or his natural humor gets the better of the seriousness with
which he wishes to treat his subject, the effect is equally pleas-
ing. The idea of the poet's weeping " of teres ful a tyne " and
of his being " walwed and y-wounde" in love as a "pyk walwed
in galauntyne " is delightful ; and the humor lifts this little poem
far above the insipid amorous ballades on which it is modeled.
The Complaint to his Purse and The Envoy to Scogan
Chaucer has left to the world two delightful pieces in which
he has utilized for the central ideas, to be treated humorously,
a feature or features of courtly love. The first of these pieces,
we need only mention ; it is The Complaint to his Empty Purse.
As the courtly lover complains to his lady of her coldness and
disdain, so Chaucer complains to his purse that it is light, and
beseeches it to be heavy again, and thus save his life :
Be hevy agayn, or elles mot I dye !
Chaucer, at this time, was an old man (it was the year before
his death), 1 and this was his appeal for help to King Henry IV,
whom in the Envoy he calls " conquerour of Brutes Albioun."
Charming as the humor is, pathos is not wanting when we re-
member the circumstances. We recognize again the individu-
ality of the poet, who, though in misfortune, kept a cheerful face
to the world and brightened an appeal for help with that gaiety
which no adversity could destroy.
Another poem of undoubted autobiographical interest is the
Envoy to Scogan. The theme is the blasphemy of Chaucer's
friend Scogan against the divinities of love, and the result of
his sin. Scogan had spoken
Swich thing as in the lawe of love forbode is.
1 If the Envoy was written at the same time as the balade.
104 COURTLY LOVE
This mention of the law of love is interesting as showing that
the conception, which was as old as the troubadours, was still
alive. The reference is, of course, to the principle of the courtly
system, that lovers must not expect to obtain the object of their
desire too easily, but that the service of love is sufficient reward
in itself. This principle is nowhere better expressed than in the
words of Pandarus :
What ! many a man hath love f ul dere y-bought
Twenty winter that his lady wiste,
That never yet his lady mouth he kiste.
What ! shulde he therf or fallen in despeyr,
Or be recreaunt for his owne tene,
Or sleen himself, al be his lady fayr ?
Nay, nay, but ever in oon be fresh and grene
To serve and love his dere hertes quene,
And thenke it is a guerdon hir to serve
A thousand-fold more than he can deserve. 1
It was this law that Scogan had been guilty of breaking when
he declared that he gave up his lady at Michaelmas, because she
heeded not his distress. He had been guilty further of calling
Cupid to witness that he had spoken this blasphemy. The re-
sult was that Venus was in tears, and Cupid was angry. The
tears of the goddess are deluging all the region of Greenwich,
and the poet is afraid that equally dire consequences will follow
from the wrath of Cupid. For although both Scogan and the
poet have nothing to fear from the god's arrows, yet on account
of the former's blasphemy, there is danger
Lest . . . the wreche of Love precede
On alle hem that ben hore and rounde of shape,
That ben so lykly folk in love to spede.
This is a clever use to which to put the old conventions ; and
as in the Complaint to his Purse, the humor is heightened by
the serious personal element. After bantering his friend in his
1 Troilus and Criseyde^ bk. i, St. 116-117.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 105
delightful way, quickly as the cloud follows the sunshine on a
summer day the tone changes. The poet thinks of the insta-
bility of impressions made by human effort, and makes the
melancholy observation :
But al shal passen that men prose or ryme ;
Take every man his turn, as for his tyme.
POEMS PART NARRATIVE AND PART LYRIC
The Complaint of Mars
In the Complaint of Mars the interest is rather astronomical
than human. With the astronomy, however, we are not at
The poet hears a bird singing before sunrise on Saint Valen-
tine's day. After a short preliminary exhortation to lovers, the
bird tells the Ovidian story of Mars and Venus, and concludes
by repeating at full length the complaint of Mars for the loss of
his lady. The god tells of his devotion to Venus, of her beauty,
and of her other excellences. The mention of his distress leads
him to speak of the woes which lovers suffer, and of the in-
stability of their happiness. He ends with an appeal for sym-
pathy addressed to the brave knights of renown who are of his
" division," to all true ladies, and to all lovers who have received
the aid of Venus.
Ideas commonly used in love-poetry are seen in the allusion
to the fear of slanderers, in the lines which speak of "the god
that sit so hye " as constraining us to love against our will,
and in all the remarks on the woes and sorrows of lovers ; but
the conventional features relate, for the most part, to the figure
of the lady. . .. , , . ,
My lady is the verrey sours and welle
Of beaute, lust, fredom, and gentilnesse,
Of riche aray, . . .
Of al disport in which men frendly dwelle,
io6 COURTLY LOVE
Of love and pley, and of benigne humblesse,
Of soun of instruments of al swetnesse ;
And therto so wel fortuned and thewed,
That through the world hir goodnesse is yshewed.
Her beauty is the cause of Mars's passion, though not of his
present sorrow. It is like the famous brooch of Thebes, which
was fashioned with such art that no one could resist its charm,
but whoever laid eyes on it must either possess it or go mad.
Yet the possessor was in constant fear ; and after he had parted
with it, he had double the woe for having given it up. The
blame for all this sorrow was not his who desired the brooch,
but his who fashioned it so cunningly. So is it with the beauty
of Venus : For thogh my lady have so ^ beaute,
That I was mad til I had gete her grace,
She was not cause of myn adversite,
But he that wroghte hir, also mot I thee,
That putte such a beaute in hir face,
That made me to covete and purchace
Myn owne deth.
This paragon of excellence occupies the usual position of
superiority. The lover is her servant, humble, docile, and patient.
He binds himself to perpetual obedience, and after he has lost
her, he still vows lasting service.
"This worthy Mars, that is of knighthod welle," has, like
other lovers, his woes and sorrows. Since the story deals with
the intrigue after the lady has been won, we miss the troubles
with which the lover is usually burdened. His own particular
woe in loving his lady leads him to remark :
Alas ! that ever lovers mot endure
For love, so many a perilous aventure !
Among the sorrows of lovers, Mars mentions coldness of ladies,
the slanderous tongues of envious people, and in general,
he that hath with love to done
Hath ofter wo then changed is the mone.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 107
Our summary of the conventional elements of the poem
shows that it is, as Mr. Manly calls it, "a mere exercise of in-
genuity in describing a supposed astronomical event in terms of
human action and emotion " ; l and that, of human emotion, it
sounds no great depths. The narrative is conducted with
Chaucer's usual skill. There is cleverness, too, in the Complaint
proper, in the use of the two very apt illustrations of the fish
hook and the brooch of Thebes. Such illustrations are excep-
tional in this kind of poetry ; but the ideas which they illumi-
nate are wholly conventional.
Anelida and Arcite
The Anelida and Arcite, like the Complaint of Mars, consists
of two parts : a narrative portion and a lyric in the form of a com-
plaint. Of the latter, little need be said. The varieties of metre
indicate .that the poet is exercising his ingenuity. It is written
on French models and contains little that is new. For the
most part, it exhibits no great spontaneity. The elaborate stan-
zaic devices produce an effect of artificiality, which the senti-
ments, ideas, and language serve only to strengthen. 2 In the
narrative, on the other hand, there is abundant vitality and spirit.
Though the stock ideas are used, their conventionality is not
conspicuous. In the description of the " newe lady," who was all
of another kind from the trusting Anelida, the commonplace of
1 Harvard Studies and Notes, 1907, p. 124. Shirley's statement (Furnivall,
Trial Forewords, p. 80) that the poem has reference to the intrigue of the
Duchess of York and the Earl of Huntingdon lacks evidence, and in view of
the conventionality pointed out above it seems unlikely.
2 In one or two passages of the Complaint, however, pathos is unmistakable.
Take, for instance, the lines :
And if I slepe a furlong wey or tweye,
Than thinketh me that your figure
Before me stant, clad in asure,
To profren eft a newe asure
For to be trewe and mercy me to preye.
108 COURTLY LOVE
the lady's coldness appears ; but the freshness of the language
makes us forget the triteness of the sentiments. The new lady
gives Arcite his fill of " daunger " and
holdeth him so narowe
Up by the brydel, at the staves ende,
That every word, he dradde hit as an arowe ;
Hir daunger made him bothe bowe and bende,
And, as hir liste, made him turne or wende.
There are allusions, too, to the lover's humility, and to his
sorrows ; but here again is seen the same refreshing manner of
expressing such ideas. The new lady, the poet tells us,
ne graunted him in hir livinge
No grace, why that he hath lust to singe.
Most of the conventions of the love literature find their root in
real life. In Chaucer's better work, such ideas take on their
original naturalness ; and this is true in the narrative portion of
Anelida and Arcite. On the whole, students and critics have
underrated the merit of this remarkable poem.
THE EARLIER LOVE-VISION POEMS
The general relation of The Book of the Duchess, The House
of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls, and the Prologue to the
Legend of Good Women to the Old French love-visions has
been made clear by Professor Sypherd, 1 who has proved con-
clusively that Chaucer was writing under the immediate influence
of French models. The form, the setting, and the devices em-
ployed for heightening the interest in the English poems are
all " determined by the literary genre of the love- vision." 2 Dis-
regarding the form and setting, therefore, we may proceed to
examine the element of love.
1 Sypherd, Studies in Chaucer's " Hous of Fame'' Chaucer Society Pub-
lications, 1907. 2 Ibid., p. 10.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 109
The Book of the Duchess
In the Book of the Duchess the poet relates a dream. One
morning in May he was awakened by the singing of birds. As
he lay there listening, the sun's rays streamed through the win-
dows, in the stained glass of which were wrought the stories of
famous lovers, and lighted up the chamber walls, which were
painted " bothe text and glose " with all the story of the Romance
of the Rose. At the sound of a hunter's horn he quickly left
his bed, joined the hunting party, and rode away. The chase
was soon abandoned. As he walked from the tree where he had
been stationed, a whelp came by him and fawned on him. He
tried to catch it, but it fled. Following it, he was led through a
flowery path into a beautiful green wood. As he gazed -at the
many wonders about him, he was aware of a man dressed in
black sitting near him, and lamenting in a pitiful manner the
death of his lady. Out of pure sympathy, the poet accosted him
and offered to relieve him of his woe, as far as he was able.
The man in black tells how he has lost his queen in a game of
chess which he played with Fortune. At the poet's request, he
then tells the story of how he wooed and won the fair lady, and
how they lived together in happiness till death took her from him.
This courtship and marriage is the real subject of the poem,
and this is the part in which we are here especially interested.
The Book of the Duchess is among the earliest of Chaucer's
works. Naturally, therefore, we find in it abundant use of con-
ventional ideas and language. The knight in black relates his
courtship and marriage in the general style of the contemporary
love story. The love deity appears as a feudal lord. The knight
Sir . . . sith first I couthe *"W
Have any maner wit fro youthe,
... I have ever yit
Be tributary, and yiven rente
To Love hooly with god entente,
1 10 COURTLY LOVE
And through plesaunce become his thral,
With good wil, body, herte, and al.
Al this I putte in his servage,
As to my lord, and dide homage.
This conception of the deity is not consistently maintained;
immediately, Love becomes a god to whom the lover prays :
And ful devoutly prayde him to, ^ 11
He shulde besette myn herte so,
That it plesaunce to him were,
And worship to my lady dere.
This prayer was answered after many years. 1
The perfections of the lady, both physical and spiritual, her
position of superiority, her indifference to the lover, are all told
in the conventional way. Her physical beauty is described in
minute detail in lines which, like much of the rest of the poem,
are taken from Machaut's Jugement dou Roy de Behaigne?
It is to the credit of Chaucer's delicacy that he has left out
some of the suggestiveness of his original. A common method
in the mediaeval descriptions of womanly beauty was to enu-
merate such charms as were visible, and conclude with a hint of
what was concealed. For example, in Chretien's Cligh, Alex-
ander tells how he has been struck by the dart of Love. The
dart is the beauty of Soredarnours. The golden tresses are the
feather ; the forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth, teeth, chin,
ears, throat, bosom, all go to make up the dart. Having
described all these, he adds :
Ne m'an mostra Amor adons
Fors que la coche et les penons ;
Car la fleche iert el coivre mise :
C'est li bliauz et la chemise,
Don la pucele estoit vestue. 3
1 See 11. 835 ff. 2 See Kittredge, Modem Philology, VIII, 465 ff.
8 Chretien de Troies, Cligts, 11. 853-857.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS in
Alain de Lille, in De Planctu Naturae, after a similar list of
the beautiful features of Nature, says : " Caetera vero quae
thalamus secretior absentabat, meliora fides esse loquebatur.*' *
So, Boccaccio, with reference to Emilia :
quale poi fosse
La parte agli occhi del corpo celata,
Colui sel seppe per cui ella cosse
Avanti con amor lunga fiata :
Immagino che a dirlo le mie posse
Non basterieno avendola io veduta ;
Tal d'ogni ben doveva esser compiuta. 2
We have already noted that Gower's lover adopts the same
method; 3 and in the poem of Machaut which, as we have
observed, was Chaucer's model in this part of the Book of the
Duchess, the usual procedure is followed.
Que pas ne vi, dame, vous di je tout
Qu'a nature tout estoit respondant,
Bien fassone* et de taille excellent. 4
These lines, however, do not recur in Chaucer.
Every good quality of mind and heart is attributed by the
knight in black to his lady : moderation, " goodly speche,"
goodness, " trouthe," lack of coquetry, and chastity. These,
like her physical beauties, are dwelt upon at length, as is appro-
priate in such a eulogy. The significance of Chaucer's elabo-
rate treatment of the lady's character will be mentioned later.
Here, we merely note the conventional idea of the lover's de-
picting his lady as a being perfect in all her attributes of mind
1 Alain de Lille, De Planctu Naturae, ed. Thomas Wright in The Anglo-
Latin Satirical Poets of the Twelfth Century, London, 1872, II, 432.
2 Boccaccio, Teseide, xii, st. 63 ; in Opere Volgari, ed. I. Moutier, 1827-1831,
Vol. X. 8 Confessio Amantis, vi, 780-781. See p. 56, above.
4 Le Jugement dou Roy de Behaigne, 11. 380-383.
112 COURTLY LOVE
The position of the lady with regard to the lover is the conven-
tional one of superiority. The feudal figure is employed. The lover
is a vassal and makes his vows to be a true and devoted servant.
Describing his first sight of the Duchess, he expresses the very
old sentiment : > _ purely tho myn owne thoght ^^ 1*
Seyde hit were bet serve hir for noght
Than with another to be wel. 1
The idea is reiterated in the lines :
But as my wit coude best suffysej? hlg
After my yonge childly wit,
Withoute drede, I besette hit
To love hir in my beste wyse,
To do hir worship and servyse
That I tho coude, by my trouthe,
Withoute feyning outher slouthe.
After the usual fortunes of the lover, the lady came to under-
stand that he . . . ne wilned thing but good, *M
And worship, and to kepe hir name
Over al thing, and drede hir shame,
And was so besy hir to serve,
and so she gave him " al hooly the noble yift of hir mercy " ;
and, as he says of himself,
In alle my youthe, in alle chaunce, 11^5
She took me in hir governaunce.
In the attitude of the lady toward the lover, conventional ideas
appear, partly in allusions and partly in actual description. In
his raptures over her eyes, the lover remarks :
Her eyen semed anoon she wolde
Have mercy ; fooles wenden so ;
But hit was never the rather do ;
1 We may compare this statement with the following words of the Provengal
Rambaud d'Orange :
E platz mi mais viure desesperatz,
Que si ieu fos altra domn' amatz (Raynouard, III, 17).
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 113
But ever, me thoghte, hir eyen seyde, V 7 fe
" By god, my wrathe is al foryive ! "
The same idea of the lady's wrath is alluded to in the poet's
question to the lover, regarding his loss :
" What los is that, sir? " quod I tho ;> " 3< V
" Nil she not love yow ? is it so ?
Or have ye oght y-doon amis,
That she hath left yow ? is hit this ? "
The lover, telling of his fear to speak his passion, explains :
... I durste noght
For al this worlde telle hir my thoght,
Ne I wolde have wratthed hir trewely,
and again, he tells how he debated within himself :
And, but I telle hir, I nam but deed ; J
And if I telle hir, to seye sooth,
I am adred she wol be wrooth.
All these allusions indicate the conventional attitude of indiffer-
ence on the lady's part.
The effects of the lover's passion are set forth in the usual
way : he suffers sorrow and woe ; yet he is silent because he fears
to tell his love. When he finally speaks, only to be refused, his
woe is greater than ever.
Alias ! that day
The sorwe I suffred, and the wo !
That trewly Cassandra, that so
Bewayled the destruccioun
Of Troye and of Ilioun,
Had never swich sorwe as I tho.
I durste no more say therto
For pure fere, but stal away ;
And thus I lived f ul many a day :
That trewely, I hadde no need
Further than my beddes heed
Never a day to seche sorwe ;
I fond it redy every morwe.
114 COURTLY LOVE
The lover finds, however, the conventional relief from his
sorrows. The sight of his lady is a sovereign remedy:
wonder fayn I wolde hir see.
So mochel hit amended me,
That, whan I saw hir first amorwe,
I was warished of al my sorwe
Of al day after, til hit were eve ;
Me thoughte nothing mighte me greve,
Were my sorowes never so smerte.
In this the lover shows that he is availing himself of the com-
forts promised by the god of Love to his followers : Dous-
Penser, Dous-Parler, and Dous-Regard. 1 It was the last of
these which came to the relief of the lover. Another solace he
found, too, like the unhappy Aurelius, in making " songs,
compleintes, roundels, virelayes." 2
Trewely I did my besinesse
To make songes, as I best coude,
And ofte tyme I song hem loude ;
And made songes a gret del . . .
. . . songes thus I made
Of my feling, myn herte to glade.
Here again, he did what all lovers were expected to do, and
what was commanded by the god of Love in the Romance of
the Rose. It was a part of the god's directions to the lover,
... for thy lady sake
Songes and complayntes that thou make. 8
Another conventional effect of the lover's passion is seen in
the usual experience of confusion and loss of speech, fear and
loss of color, when attempting to declare his love :
1 ge te doing
Trois autres biens, qui grans solas
Font & ecus qui en mes las.
Roman de la Rose, 11. 2728-2730.
2 Franklin's Tale, 1. 948. 8 Romance of the Rose, 11. 2325-2326.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 115
I not wel how that I began,
Ful evel rehersen hit I can ;
And eek, as helpe me god withal,
I trowe hit was in the dismal,
That was the ten woundes of Egipte,
For many a word I over-skipte
In my tale, for pure fere
Lest my wordes mis-set were.
With sorweful herte, and woundes dede,
Softe and quaking for pure drede,
And shame, and stinting in my tale
For ferde, and myn hewe al pale,
Ful ofte I wex bothe pale and reed ;
Bowing to hir, I heng the heed ;
I durste not ones loke hir on,
For wit, manere, and al was gon.
I seyde " mercy ! " and no more ;
Hit was no game, hit sat me sore.
The favorite conceit of Chretien de Troies, that love enters the
heart through the eyes, also appears.
There remain to be noted two ideas, which are not merely
literary conventions, but which perhaps reflect views held by
contemporary lovers. The first is one which we have already
met, that it is the paramount duty of young people to engage
in the service of love. As far back as Andreas, the god of
Love is represented as meting out punishment to those who do
not serve him. Gower uses the idea in connection with his tale
of Rosiphelee. 1 Pandarus refuses to believe that Criseyde will
not, in time, bestow her favor upon Troilus, since
Was never man ne woman yet bigete
That was unapt to suffren loves hete
Celestial, or elles love of kinde,
1 Among the gentil nacion
Love is an occupacion
Which forto kepe his lustes save
Scholde every gentil herte have.
Confessio Amantis, iv, 1451-1454.
Il6 COURTLY LOVE
and Criseyde, as he says, was never " celestial." When Troilus,
too, came to experience the tender passion, which, although he
had reached the years of maturity, he had never felt, this same
priest of Love, Pandarus, welcomed him into the fold as a repent-
ant sinner, one whom Loye of his goodne$se
Hath . . . converted out of wikkednesse. 1
And so the sorrowing knight of our poem tells how from his
youth, since he had had any comprehension or understanding,
he had been tributary to Love and had become his thrall, with
good will, body, heart, and all. This childish love remained for
a long time purely ideal, unbestowed upon anyone, but ready to
be transformed into a real passion for his lady, when he should
meet her : ^nd tn i s was longe, and many a yeer
Or that myn herte was set o-wher,
That I did thus, and niste why.
This feature Chaucer took from Machaut. 2
The other idea to be noted is that lovers must go on expedi-
tions in order to win favor with their ladies. The knight, in
speaking of the sincerity of the Duchess, says that she did not
. . . sende men into Walakye, J e
To Pruyse and into Tartarye,
To Alisaundre, ne into Turkye,
And bidde him faste anoon that he
Go hoodies to the drye see,
1 Troilus and Criseyde, i, St. 143.
2 Coulton (Chaucer and his England, pp. 223 ff.) mentions, as an excellent
comment on the passage, the conversation between the little Saintre and the
lady of the Fair Cousins. Calling the little Jehan, who was then only thirteen
years old, before her, she makes him miserable by demanding of him the
name of the lady whom he loves best par amours, and how long it is since he
had seen her. Unable to answer her, because he did not understand the
mystery of love par amours, he is dismissed in disgrace. But he is called up
another day, and another, and yet another, until, in order to escape her badger-
ing, the little fellow confesses to her in tears that she herself is his love
(Jehan de Saintrt, chap, iii, pp. 8 ff.).
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS
And come hoom by the Carrenar ;
And seye, " Sir, be now right war
That I may of yow here seyn
Worship, or that ye come ageyn ! "
She ne used no suche knakkes smale.
Machaut, in his Dit du Lion, describes different kinds of lovers.
One kind, he says, are the " dous, humble, courtois," who go
beyond the seas into forays, battles, and upon various adventures,
in order that they may stand high in their ladies' favor. When
they return, their stay with their ladies is but short, "for if
there should be an expedition into Austria or Bohemia, into
Hungary or Denmark, or into any foreign land, . . . into France
or into England, they would go there to seek honor." 1 Gower
also, as we have seen, refers to the same custom. It is note-
worthy that neither Chaucer nor Gower treats it sympathetically.
Gower devotes one hundred and twenty-two lines to arguments
against the notion that lovers must approve themselves in arms ;
and the knight, in Chaucer's poem, names the sending of lovers
on such expeditions as one of the things his perfect lady did
not do, with the significant comment,
She ne used no suche knakkes smale.
Enough has been said to prove that the conventions of courtly
love are abundantly represented in the Book of the Duchess ;
indeed, they make up most of the six hundred lines with which
we are especially concerned. Here, as elsewhere in Chaucer's
love-poetry, the originality consists not in the invention of new
material, but in the vitality he infuses into what is old and out-
worn. How, then, does this vitalization appear in the Book of
the Duchess ? First of all, in the setting. The spring morning
with the songs of birds, blue skies, green fields and woods and
beautiful flowers, had been used as setting for love-poems for
hundreds of years. Yet, when Chaucer employs it, we at once
1 Les (Euvres de Guillaume de Machault, ed. P. Tarbe, Paris, 1849, PP- 4O ff.
Ii8 COURTLY LOVE
feel that freshness which is characteristic of so much of his
work. When he describes the singing of birds, the bright sun-
light streaming through his windows, the clear sky, old ideas
take on new life under his touch, and we feel in them a charm
that defies analysis. We forget the triteness of the matter in
the vividness of its presentation.
Something more than mere convention appears, too, in the
character of the lover-knight. In describing his passion for
the fair duchess, he repeats ideas that have been in use since
the time of the troubadours. Yet we are persuaded that his
passion is genuine. His account of his lady's perfections is
hyperbolical ; yet we attribute the exaggeration to love and grief.
Most of all does Chaucer's originality appear in the treatment
of the lady. For, though the details are not original, they are
so skilfully combined that there emerges what Lowell has called
" one of the most beautiful portraits of a woman that were ever
drawn." l Even after the parallels in Machaut are noted, ex-
tending even to identity of phrase, one remains persuaded that
the character is that of the Duchess Blanche and no other. In
his description of her Chaucer reveals for the first time that
sympathetic insight into woman's nature which has given us the
pictures of Criseyde, the Prioress, Constance, and, we are all
glad to add, the Wife of Bath. His imagination, too, was
surely quickened by personal attachment. Mere desire to com-
pliment a patron will not account for the impression conveyed.
We feel certain that Chaucer knew the Duchess well, that he
loved her and honored her, and came under the sway of her
beauty and " womanly noblesse."
The House of Fame
Something with regard to love and lovers was intended to be
the culmination of the House of Fame. This, I think, Professor
1 Conversations on Some of the Old Poets, p. 89.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 119
Sypherd has shown conclusively. 1 But Chaucer left the poem
unfinished, and what we have of it is, in a way, an introduction,
just as the Ceyx and Alcyone and the other parts of the Book
of the Duchess are introductory to the interview with the knight
in black ; and just as, in the Parliament of Fowls, the account
of the dream and the description of the Temple of Venus lead
up to the love story of the birds. Except for the general plan
and structure of the poem, which Chaucer found in the old
French love-visions, the actual love element in the House of Fame
is very slight. It is practically confined to two passages : (i) that
part of Book I which tells the story of ^Eneas and Dido and
of the other women of antiquity who were betrayed by false
lovers ; 2 and (2) the lines in Book II in which the eagle explains
the purpose of the poet's aerial journey. 3 We may take up the
second of these passages first.
The poet professes to be, not a lover himself, but one who
is interested in the subject as an outsider. Jupiter has observed
how he has for a long time served Cupid and Venus without
any reward ; but his service, we learn, had not been that of a
lover. It had consisted in writing praises of the Art of Love,
and in composing " bokes, songes, dytees " in honor of the deit/
and his servants. Love had neglected or refused to advance his
interests ; yet he had persevered in humble devotion. This atti-
tude of mind on Chaucer's part is here expressed for the first
time. It is maintained, however, in the Parliament of Fowls,
in the Troilus and Criseyde, and in the Prologue to the Legend
of Good Women.^ Jupiter is now about to reward the poet by
1 Sypherd, Studies in Chaucer's " Hous of Fame'' p. 15.
2 Bk. i, 11. 238-432. 8 Bk. ii, 11. 606-698.
4 Cf. also the lines :
What shulde I speke more queynte,
Or peyne me my wordes peynte
To speak of love ? hit wol not be.
I can not of that facultee (i, 245-248).
120 COURTLY LOVE
letting the eagle conduct him to a place where he shall have
some " disport and game " in return for his unselfish devotion
to Love. There he shall hear wonderful things of " Loves folk,"
some of which the eagle mentions in detail. This passage, as
Dr. Sypherd has shown, 1 clearly announces the ultimate purpose
of the poem ; and the announcement is confirmed later, when
Chaucer, in reply to the question of the man who stood at his
back in the House of Fame, says that he had come there,
Some newe tydings for to lere . . .
Tydings, other this or that,
Of love, or swiche thinges glade.
The story of Dido the poet tells as part of the picture he saw
painted on the walls of the Temple of Venus. In less than fifty
lines (if we disregard his digressions) he summarizes the fourth
book of the ^Eneid, along with certain incidents from the earlier
books. It is Chaucer's digressions, however, which concern us
here. These consist of Dido's lament and of reflections in the
poet's own person on the perfidy of men.
The lament has only the slightest similarity to anything in
Virgil. It is tender rather than wrathful, and the poet's sympa-
thies are altogether with the forsaken queen. 2 True, he mentions
Virgil's apology for ^Eneas, but his tone in repeating it is cool
and almost perfunctory. 3
The observations on the perfidy of men are in keeping with
the modifications just noted. After telling of the treachery of
./Eneas, Chaucer exclaims :
Lo, how a woman doth amis,
To love him that unknowen is, ...
For this shal every woman finde
That som man, of his pure kinde,
Wol shewen outward the faireste,
Til he have caught that what him leste ;
1 P. 15. 2 Compare i, 315 ff., with JEneid, iv, 305-306. 3 i, 427-432.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 12 1
And thanne wol he causes finde,
And swere how that she is unkinde,
Or fals, or prevy, or double was. 1
Again, after speaking of Dido's suicide as the result of her be-
trayal, he denounces the faithlessness of lovers :
But, welaway ! the harm, the routhe,
That hath betid for swich untrouthe,
As men may ofte in bokes rede,
And al day seen hit yet in dede,
That for to thenken hit, a tene is.
And he cites the famous stories of Demophoon, Achilles, Paris,
Jason, Hercules, and Theseus.
The most noteworthy feature of these passages is their sym-
pathy for women whose lovers have proved untrue. We need
not hesitate to accept such utterances as sincerely expressive of
Chaucer's own feelings. Indeed, that sense of the sadness of
human life which so often manifests itself in his writings could
find no more compelling cause for expression than man's faith-
lessness and woman's sorrow.
Parliament of Fowls
The Parliament of Fowls is a tale of love. The first two
stanzas of the Proem, and the last (the invocation to Venus),
announce the author's intention in the clearest terms. The
intervening stanzas prepare us for the vision, which makes up
the body of the poem.
The first lines of the Proem involve the same attitude of
detachment toward love which we have already seen in the House
1 With the last seven lines, we may compare Chaucer's statement of the
conduct of Arcite in Anelida and Arcite :
For he bar hir on honde of trecherye,
And swoor he coude hir doublenesse espye,
And al was falsnes that she to him mente.
Anel. and Ar., 11. 157-159.
122 COURTLY LOVE
of Fame ^ and which will appear later in the Troilus* and the
Legend of Good Women? The poet is amazed at the "wonderful
working" of Love on men's lives.
Whan I on him thinke,
Nat wot I wel wher that I wake or winke. 4
Not that he knows anything about love at first hand ; but he
often reads of the god's miracles and of his cruelty, and how he
will be lord and master. All he can say is " God save swich a
lord ! " 5 He then tells how he once had a dream after reading
the Somnium Scipionis, and the poem closes with an invocation
to Cytherea, who, as he says, caused him to have this dream.
The vision begins with Scipio's conducting the poet to the
gate of a beautiful park. Over the gate are inscriptions pro-
claiming the joys and the griefs of loving. He hesitates to enter,
but ''African" leads him in. Then comes a description of the
park and of the wonders to be seen there. In a garden of Love
there is of course an abundance of flowers, fountains, singing
birds, and the music of instruments. Here also is " lord Cupid "
with his arrows. The qualities and characteristics of lovers
appear as Cupid's courtiers, 6 personified under the names Plai-
sance, Aray, Lust, Curtesye, Craft, Delyt, Gentilnesse, Beautee,
Youthe, Fool-hardinesse, Flaterye, Desyr, Messagerye, Mede,
and so on. Here is also the brazen Temple of Venus, in which
the poet hears the " hot sighs," and sees Priapus, Venus and
her porter Richesse, Ceres and Bacchus, and the paintings of
ancient lovers. Having dwelt upon the glories of the garden
(as Boccaccio gives them in the Teseide 7 ), the poet is ready for
1 Ll. 621-640. 2 i, st. 3 ; ii, st. 2, 3 ; iii, st. 6, 190-191.
3 B Prologue, 11. 58-59, 81-83, 412-413, 490-491.
* Ll. 6-7. Cf. Deschamps, Balade 475.
5 This attitude of detachment he maintains in the vision itself. Cf. 11. 155 ff.
6 Neilson, Origins <Srv., p. 142. Cf. p. 116.
7 Bk.vii, st. 51 ff. See Furnivall, Trial Forewords, pp. 59 ff., and Skeat,
Minor Poems, pp. Ixii ff. and Oxford Chaucer, I, 68-73.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 123
his story, the account of St. Valentine's day and of the rivalry
of the three tercelets for the love of the " formel " eagle. This
is the tale of love which was promised in the Proem.
Each of the tercelets urges his claim, and representatives of
the various classes of birds give their opinions on the question.
Finally Nature, the presiding goddess, leaves the choice to the
" formel " herself, who postpones her decision for a year. The
story, we perceive, is very simple indeed ; but it is elaborated by
Chaucer with extraordinary skill.
The most interesting feature of the Parliament, for the pur-
poses of this investigation, is the manner in which the author
brings the conventions of courtly love into sharp contrast with the
ideals of the bourgeoisie and the " vileins." Well-nigh every con-
ceivable variety of opinion is expressed, from the " dunghill " bab-
blings of the duck to the refined sentiments of the royal tercelet.
The lady in this love-story is the formel eagle. She is por-
trayed in the usual fashion. Her position of superiority comes
out in the pleading of the tercelets ; she is the sovereign whom
each serves, and whom each asks for favor and mercy. She is
" of shap the gentileste," " the most benigne and the goodlieste,"
and is endowed with every virtue. Nevertheless, she is kept in
the background, as convention requires. Her part in the action
is confined to deferring her choice of suitor for a year.
The qualities of the royal tercel are also those of the conven-
tional lover. He is "wys and worthy, secree, trewe as stel."
He is humble, as his manner of pleading shows :
With bed enclyned and ful humble chere
This royal tercel spak.
His plea is also the conventional plea of lovers. Not as his mate,
but as his lady sovereign, he chooses the formel eagle. He
is all hers and will serve her ever. He cannot live long in his
present pain ; therefore he begs her for mercy and grace, and
124 COURTLY LOVE
beseeches her to consider his loyalty and have pity on his woe.
If he is ever found unfaithful, disobedient, wilfully negligent, a
boaster, or inconstant, he hopes he may be torn to pieces by the
other fowls. None loves her so well as he, although she has
made him no promises ; therefore she ought to have mercy on
him. This is the only plea he can make. But he will serve her
always, no matter where she may be.
The skill which the poet displays in the contrast between this
appeal and that of the next tercel is noteworthy. The fact that
the latter is " of lower kinde " is made very clear by the absence
from his speech of the extreme courtliness seen in the first ter-
cel's pleading. And yet it is not entirely without courtly senti-
ment. He loves her better than the first tercel, he says, and he
has served her longer ; if the period of devotion is to be the
basis of reward, her love and favor belong to him. He can say
as well as his rival, that he will gladly submit to hanging if she
ever finds him " fals, unkinde, j angler, rebel any wyse, or jalous,"
or if he does not conduct himself so as to keep her honor, at
least so far as he has wit. His argument, though it makes some
use of courtly terms, has much the sound of a business arrange-
ment. We miss the perfect humility of the royal tercel, as well
as his polish and refinement.
The same business-like tone pervades the plea of the third
tercel. " I do not boast of long service," he says, " but for all
that it is as possible for me to die to-day of my woe, as it is for
him who has been languishing for twenty years. Furthermore,
one man's service of six months may be more satisfactory than
that of another who has served for a long time." But he quickly
tempers the boldness of the assertion by adding, " I do not say
this with regard to myself ; for I can do no service that will
please my lady. But I dare say, I am her truest liegeman, in
short, until I die. I will be all hers and true to her in every
way." By this courtly speech he avoids the sin of boasting.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 125
Having thus set forth the question in the elegant and grace-
ful plea of the royal tercel and the mingled courtly and practi-
cal observations of his two rivals, the poet proceeds to give the
views of the lower orders of society. The other birds murmur
at the long debate, and Nature decides to let each class of fowls
choose a spokesman. The tercelet of the falcon speaks for the
" foules of ravyne." His verdict is what we should expect : " Let
the formel choose the worthiest in his knighthood, the greatest
in dignity, the gentlest of blood ! " The water fowls are repre-
sented by the goose, who gives as her judgment : " If she will
not love him, let him love another." Nothing more opposed to
courtly doctrine could be imagined. A lover was required to be
true to his lady till death, even if she showed him no favor.
This principle, indeed, is immediately asserted by the turtle-dove,
speaking for seed-fowl :
Nay, god f orbede a lover shulde chaunge !
Thogh that his lady evermore be straunge,
Yet let him serve hir ever, til he be deed. 1
And the sparrowhawk, taking up the cudgels for the courtly
group, shows a fine contempt for the " parfit reson of a goos ! "
Nobody but a churl would ever have thought of such a sentiment.
Indeed, as the sparrowhawk says of a courtly lover,
Hit lyth not in his wit nor in his wille
to love another lady.
It is of interest to note that the poet has ascribed to the
" turtel " the courtly sentiment of constancy, although this bird
1 Cf . Pandarus's question, " Shall a lover cease to serve his lady because
she is indifferent ? " and his own reply :
Nay, nay, but ever in oon be fresh and grene
To serve and love his dere hertes quene,
And thenke it is a guerdon hir to serve
A thousand-fold more than he can deserve. Troilus, i, st. 117.
126 COURTLY LOVE
represents the next to the lowest class in his social scale of
fowls. 1 The reason is obvious. 2
The duck, however, thinks it a great joke that anybody should
continue to love a woman who cares nothing for him. As he
says : " Who can find any reason or sense in that ?
Ye, quek," yit quod the doke, ful wel and faire,
" Ther been mo sterres, god wot, than a paire ! "
This churlish prating is too much for the tercelet :
" Now fy, cherl ! " quod the gentil tercelet,
" Out of the dunghil com that word ful right,
Thou canst noght see which thing is wel beset ;
Thou farest by love as oules doon by light,
The day hem blent, ful wel they see by night ;
Thy kind is of so lowe a wrechednesse,
That what love is, thou canst not see ne gesse."
Here the tercelet merely gives expression to the feelings enter-
tained by the courtly classes for the " vilains " from early times.
1 In lines 323-329, Chaucer arranges the birds thus : " the foules of ravyne
were hyest set ; and than the foules smale that eten as hem Nature wolde en-
clyne, as worm." The " water-fowl " are lowest. This leaves the third place
for the seed-fowl ; and strange to say, he puts the turtle in a lower class than
the " lewed " cuckoo. This is Chaucer's own arrangement ; at least, it is not
in the description of Alain (De Planctu Naturae, pp. 437-439), which seems to
have influenced the poet here. But then, we need not hold the poet down to
a scientific accuracy in the play of his humor. Besides, the real dispute is be-
tween the courtly set and the " vileins " represented by the goose and the duck.
2 Courtly love did not demand such devotion as this. Andreas's dictum on
this was that two years of widowhood was long enough to elapse before taking
a new love. " Biennalis viduitas pro amante defuncto superstiti prescribitur
amanti " (Longer Code, Rule 7, p. 316). The constancy of the turtle in its love
was proverbial. For example : " Illic turtur, suo viduata consorte, amorem
epilogare dedignans, in altero bigamiae refutabat solatia" (Alain de Lille,
De Planctu Naturae, p. 439). Also :
Turtre eo est oisel simple, caste, e bel,
E sun malle aime tant, que ja a sun vivant
Altre malle nen averat, ne puis que il murrat
Ja altre ne prendrat, tut tens puis le plaindrat,
Ne sur vert ne serad. Bestiary of Philip de Thaun.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 127
Compare the opening lines of Jean de Conde's Des Vilains et
des Courtois : vilain et courtois sont contraire ;
De 1'un ne puet on bien retraire,
Et en 1'autre n'a fors que bien.
The " vilain " was regarded as contemptible in every way. But
especially despicable, it was thought, were his views of love. For
love in any true sense was absolutely unknown to him. Literature
abounds in statements of this idea. 2 It is clear, then, that with
the scoffing of the duck at the idea of constancy in love, and the
contemptuous retort of the tercelet, the debate reaches its climax.
But there is yet one report to be heard. The cuckoo crowds
to the front to give the verdict for worm-fowl. " So I get my
mate," he says, " I do not care how long this debate lasts." I
fear the cuckoo does not really represent his party. Although
he belongs to the second rank of fowls, he is, according to the
mediaeval standard, " vilain," 3 because his characteristics are
those of a " vilain," 4 just as the turtle would be judged "cortois."
Nothing could be more " vilainish " than the sentiments of the
cuckoo, not even those of the duck and the goose. And the
merlin, again one of the " fouls of ravyne," proceeds to anni-
hilate him ; there is a splendid finality in the merlin's closing
Go, lewed be thou whyl the world may dure !
This ends the debate, and, as Nature says,
In effect yet be we never the nere.
The poet now returns to the main theme of the story, and
quickly brings it to an end by having Nature submit the ques-
tion to the " formel " herself, with the result already mentioned.
1 Dits et Contes, ed. Scheler, Brussels, 1866, III, 189 ff.
2 See on this whole subject G. Paris, Romania, XXIV, 142 ff. Particu-
lar reference may be made to the Roman de la Rose, 11. 2163-2170; Le Clef
d" 'Amours (in Suchier's Bibliotheca Normannica, Vol. V, Halle, 1890), 11. 173-
180; Florance et Blancheflor, 11. 9-11 ; Li Fablel dou Dieu d' Amours, p. 17.
8 Adjectival use. * Galpin, Cortois and Vilain, p. 10.
128 COURTLY LOVE
The Parliament of Fowls is certainly a love-vision, as
Dr. Sypherd has shown. 1 It is also a love-debate, and as such
has been well compared by Koeppel with the Old French
Florance et Blanche flor. 2 In this the birds are the barons of the
god of Love, and take part in discussing a question submitted by
Florance and Blancheflor to him. No doubt Chaucer was writ-
ing under the general influence of this genre. But he has
cleverly complicated the usual scheme, for the Parliament is
in fact a double debate.
The primary question at issue is, which of the three tercelets
shall win the formel ? This might have been decided by
Nature on the basis of their several pleas, in which case the
simplest form of love-debate would have been followed. But
the intervention of the goose precipitates a general discussion,
which quickly introduces a new question, whether a lover
should be loyal to his lady under all circumstances. This second
problem had been treated by Machaut in two poems, Le Juge-
ment dou Roy de Behaigne and Le Jugement dou Roy de
Navarre ; and it was elaborately discussed by the authors of
Les Cent Balades* not so very long after the date of the
Parliament of Fowls. In the Parliament, however, the contest
is not between two classes of courtly lovers, as in the French
poems, but between "cortois" and "vilain." Here the birds
line up on two sides : the seed fowls, holding with the courtly
group represented by the " foules of ravyne," and the worm-
eating birds with the " vilains," represented by the waterfowl.
1 Studies in the "Hous of Fame," pp. 20 ff.
2 In Herrig's Archiv, XC, 149-150. Courthope (History of English Poetry,
I, 270) says the idea of a council of birds is taken from the Old French
Hueline and Eglantine. 8 Cf. pp. 34 ff., above.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 129
TROILUS AND CRISEYDE AND THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN
Troilus and Criseyde
For a correct appreciation of Chaucer's genius, as exhibited
in his great love-poem, the Troilus and Criseyde, a knowledge
of the nature of the love therein treated and of the limitations
within which the poet, voluntarily or involuntarily, worked, is
particularly necessary. Only with such a knowledge can the
characters and actions of the personages of the poem be under-
stood. It is perfectly obvious that neither Chaucer nor Boccaccio
was attempting to reproduce the life of the Trojans in the heroic
age. It is equally obvious, although perhaps it is not always so
regarded, that our opinion of the lovers should not be formed
entirely on the basis of present-day ideas. To both Boccaccio
and Chaucer, Troilus and his lady were contemporary young
people, and their love affair is related in terms of contemporary
life. Since they belong to the appropriate rank in society, they
are treated as courtly lovers. The most casual reading of the
poem shows this. Yet the fact is often forgotten by critics and
commentators, and it is worth while to examine, somewhat in
detail, the courtly elements which appear in the Troilus, and
which agree with the principles of the system as they have been
One of the commonest sentiments in the love-poetry of the
troubadours, in that of Chretien, and in the book of Andreas,
was that love is not only good in itself, but is the cause and
origin of all good. This idea appears in Pandarus's words to
the love-stricken Troilus :
And f or-thy loke of good comfort thou be ;
... for nought but good it is
To loven wel, and in a worthy place ;
Thee oughte not to clepe it hap, but grace (i, 1 28). 1
1 The references are to the Books and Stanzas of the Troilus.
130 COURTLY LOVE
The ennobling nature of love finds many expressions in the
Troilus; the most important are perhaps the following. Chaucer
himself speaks in the lines :
And ofte it [Love] hath the cruel herte apesed
And worthy folk maad worthier of name
And causeth most to dreden vyce and shame (i, 36).
Elsewhere, in the proem to Book III, he imputes this power of
abstract love to Venus, the goddess of Love :
Algates hem that ye wol sette afyre,
They dreden shame, and vices they resigne,
Ye do hem corteys be, fresshe and benigne (iii, 4).
Antigone, to the same effect, sings in praise of the lover's life :
This is the righte lyf that I am inne,
To flemen alle manere vyce and sinne :
This doth me so to vertu for to entende,
That day by day I in my wil amende (ii, 1 22).
And the hero of .the poem himself furnishes a concrete example
of the ennoblement of one's nature by love :
Thus wolde Love, yheried be his grace,
That pryde, envye, ire, and avaryce
He gan to flee, and every other vyce (iii, 258).
Another principle which seems to have been commonly ac-
cepted, was that to be in love is the normal condition for suitable
young people. We have seen this idea expressed in the Book
of the Duchess, 1 and also in the Confessio Amantis? Pandarus
teaches the same doctrine in the lines :
Was never man ne woman yet bigete
That was unapt to suffren loves hete
Celestial, or elles love of kinde (i, 140).
It is a natural inference that love ought not to be resisted.
The god of Love is often represented as punishing those who
1 Ll. 775-777- 2 i
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 131
attempt to stand out against his power. This sentiment is voiced
by Criseyde, speaking to Troilus :
Lo herte myn, as wolde the excellence
Of love, ayeins the which that no man may
Ne oughte eek goodly maken resistence . . .
This droof me for to rewe upon your peyne (iii, 142).
A doctrine prominent in Andreas's work is that a woman is
responsible for the love her beauty arouses, and she cannot
therefore justifiably refuse to grant her favor. This, in Andreas,
has a sensual connotation. It got to be a convention in later
times, with the sensual element minimized or absent altogether.
Pandarus expresses the idea when endeavoring to comfort
Troilus. Since everybody, he says, is apt (in the old sense of
the word) to experience love,
Celestial or elles love of kinde,
and since Criseyde is far too young and beautiful to go into a
monastery, k sete hir wd rfght nouthe
A worthy knight to loven and cheryce,
And but she do, I holde it for a vyce (i, 141).
Later he argues the point at length with Criseyde herself, when
he tries to prove her responsibility in the matter of granting
Troilus her love (ii, 46-50). The dialectic skill of this passage
is Pandarus's own ; but the basic principle of his argument was
well established, and Criseyde seems to have recognized it.
Another familiar principle of the courtly system was that
love obtained too easily is not prized. Pandarus advances this
argument to reassure Troilus, when he despairs of gaining the
favor of Criseyde. " Think," he says, " of the oak ; under the
repeated stroke of the woodman's axe, it must eventually fall.
Remember also that a slender reed, when the wind blows on it,
will bend to the ground and then become erect. Not so the oak.
When it is blown to the ground, it is down for good and all.
132 COURTLY LOVE
It nedeth me nought thee longe to forbyse.
Men shal rejoysen of a greet empryse
Acheved wel, and stant with-outen doute,
Al han men been the lenger ther-aboute" (ii, 199).
Most of these doctrines are put into the mouth of Pandarus.
The same authority on love matters also reminds Criseyde of
the importance of constancy, which was another cardinal prin-
ciple. He says : " If a woman pretend to love a man and calls
him * leef ' and * dere herte,' and at the same time loves another,
She doth hirself a shame, and him a gyle " (iii, 1 1 1).
We have seen that according to the conventional teaching,
jealousy in husbands was to be deprecated ; but in lovers par-
amours, it was natural and even requisite. The former idea
Criseyde expresses in the lines:
Shal noon housbonde seyn to me " chekmat ! "
For either they ben ful of jalousye,
Or maisterful, or loven novelrye (ii, 108).
She refers to the latter in that tender, pathetic scene where she
speaks to Troilus of his jealousy :
Eek al my wo is this, that folk now usen
To seyn right thus, " ye, Jalousye is Love! "
And wolde a busshel venim al excusen,
For that o greyn of love is on it shove ! (iii, 147).
Here she has in mind the courtly doctrine, and it is noteworthy
that she shows little patience with such ideas. She calls Troilus's
jealousy " swich folye," though she attributes it to his love for
her. And she takes Jove to task for allowing such an evil spirit
But tha( . wot heigne god tnat sit
If it be lyker love, or hate, or grame ;
And after that, it oughte bere his name (iii, 147).
Once more, the courtly love ideas appear in the numerous
passages dealing with the relation of the lover to his lady.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 133
Pandarus, in his endeavor to arouse his lovesick friend to some
action, well expresses the general doctrine of service. He
argues that, even though Troilus has no prospects of being
taken into the lady's favor, he should not for that reason fall
Nay, nay, but ever in oon be fresh and grene
To serve and love his dere hertes quene,
And thenke it is a guerdoun hir to serve
A thousand-fold more than he can deserve (i, 1 1 7).
The attitude of humility which Pandarus here advises is actually
assumed by Troilus in the story, and in describing it Chaucer
shows his peculiar skill in the language of love. Noticeable in
this respect is the use of the feudal figure in Troilus's speech
to the god of Love, soon after he has been smitten by the
beauty of Criseyde in the temple :
But whether goddesse or womman, y-wis,
She be, I noot, which that ye do me serve ;
But as hir man I wole ay live and sterve.
Ye stonden in hire eyen mightily,
As in a place un-to your vertu digne ;
Wherfore, lord, if my servyse or I
May lyke yow, so beth to me benigne ;
For myn estat royal here I resigne
In-to hir hond, and with ful humble chere
Bicome hir man, as to my lady dere (i, 61-62).
And the poet goes on to tell how all the hero's desire was
directed to " this conclusion "
That she on him wolde have compassion,
And he to be hir man, whyle he may dure (i, 67).
Similarly, Diomed professes to take Criseyde for his sovereign
But herte myn, sin that I am your man,
grant me permission to come to-morrow, and
At better leyser, telle yow my sorwe (v, 135).
134 COURTLY LOVE
It is not necessary to call attention to the many passages
where the idea of the lover's service is brought out. But one
variation which Chaucer's poem shows from Boccaccio's may
be cited as a striking example of the use of courtly love-ideas
in describing the relations between the two lovers. In Boccac-
cio's story, just before Griseida's departure for the Grecian
camp, Troilo says to her :
Non mi sospinse ad amarti bellezza
La quale spesso altrui suole irretire ;
Non mi trasse ad amarti gentilezza
Che suol pigliar de' nobili il desire ;
Non ornamento ancora, non ricchezza
Mi fe' per te amor nel cor sentire :
Delle qua' tutte se' piu copiosa,
Che altra fosse mai donna amorosa.
Ma gli atti tuoi altieri e signorili,
II valore e '1 parlar cavalleresco,
I tuoi costumi piu ch' altra gentili,
Ed il vezzoso tuo sdegno donnesco,
Per lo quale apparien d'esserti vili
Ogni appetito ed oprar popolesco,
Qual tu mi se', o donna mia possente,
Con Amor mi ti miser nella mente.
Now practically these same sentiments are put by Chaucer into
the mouth of Criseyde. Thus the heroine is given an added
dignity, which is in close conformity with the courtly concep-
tion. Perhaps the best description, on the whole, of the lover's
attitude, and the clearest assertion of the lady's superiority, is
found in Troilus's words in his interview with Criseyde at the
house of Deiphebus :
And than agreen that I may ben he,
Withoute braunche of vyce in any wyse,
In trouthe alway to doon yow my servyse,
As to my lady right and chief resort,
With al my wit and al my diligence,
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 135
And I to ban, right as yow list, comfort,
Under your yerde, egal to myn offence,
As deeth : if that I breke your defence ;
And that ye deigne me so muche honoure,
Me to comaunden ought in any houre
And I to been your verray humble trewe,
Secret, and in my paynes pacient,
And ever-mo desire freshly newe,
To serven, and been y-lyke ay diligent,
And, with good herte, al hooly your talent
Receyven wel, how sore that me smerte,
Lo, this mene I, myn owene swete herte (iii, 19-21).
Consequent upon the superiority of the lady, are not only the
many perturbations of the lover, but also her own coldness and
indifference. Chaucer cannot tell whether Criseyde did not
know of Troilus's sorrows, or whether she feigned she did not :
But wele I rede that, by no maner weye,
Ne semed it [as] that she of him roughte,
Nor of his peyne, or what-so-ever he thoughte (i, 71).
Pandarus, after persuading Criseyde to write to Troilus, says :
But ye have played tyraunt neigh to longe,
And hard was it your herte for to grave ;
and he tells her right out that it is time to make some show of
mercy to Troilus. Criseyde had been acting just as any lady
would have done, as Pandarus's words show :
But thus ye faren, wel neigh alle and some,
That he that most desireth yow to serve,
Of him ye recche leest wher he bicome,
And whether that he live or elles sterve (ii, 165).
The courtly love doctrine most prominent in the Troilus is
perhaps the doctrine of secrecy. The importance attached to
this idea is, of course, due to the nature of the love treated in
the poem. We have seen that, although the same conventions
came to be employed in the treatment of the various kinds of
136 COURTLY LOVE
love, in that love which was in essence sensual the demand for
secrecy was a real one. It needs no argument, of course, to prove
the sensual element in the love of Troilus and Criseyde for each
other. Obviously Pandarus knew to wkat end all this affair
tended ; and if Pandarus understood, it follows that Troilus did. 1
It is equally clear, I think, that Criseyde knew what was implied
in granting her love to Troilus. This question, as well as the
prominence given in the poem to the idea of secrecy, and its
bearing upon the personal character of the heroine, will be con-
sidered in our study of Criseyde. Here it is important to realize
that the nature of the love which Chaucer treats in his great
erotic work is that of the love par amours of the days of Marie
of Champagne and of her mother Eleanor.
In connection with the conventional doctrines in the Troilus
and Criseyde, it may be well to cite some of Chaucer's uses of
conceits common in love-poetry. The favorite conception 4 of the
troubadours and Chretien de Troies, that beauty was the cause
of love, making its attack through the eyes of the lover, appears
in Chaucer's poem in the lines :
Yet with a look his herte wex a-fere
That he, that now was most in pryde above,
Wex sodeynly most subget unto love (i, 33).
The commonplace idea of the fatal potency of the beautiful
being's eyes Chaucer frequently expresses :
Lo, he that leet himselven so konninge,
And scorned hem that loves peynes dryen,
Was ful unwar that love hadde his dwellinge
Within the subtile stremes of hir yen ;
That sodeynly him thoughte he felte dyen,
Right with hir look, the spirit in his herte,
Blessed be love, that thus can folk converte ! (i, 44) ;
1 Mr. Root evidently misses the point entirely, when he remarks : One
feels that Pandarus has seduced him [Troilus] quite as much as he has Cri-
seyde." Root, The Poetry of Chaucer, New York, 1906, p. 117.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 137
Whan he was fro the temple thus departed,
He streyght anoon un-to his paleys torneth,
Right with hir look thu'rgh-shoten and thurgh-darted (i, 47).
Troilus, making his confession to the god of Love, says :
For certes, lord, so sore hath she me wounded
That stod in black, with loking of hir yen,
That to myn hertes botme it is ysounded,
Thourgh which I woot that I mot nedes dyen (ii, 77).
Later the lover addresses his lady's eyes :
It were ye that wroughte me swich wo,
Ye humble nettes of my lady dere !
Though ther be mercy writen in your chere,
God wot, the text ful hard is sooth to finde (iii, 194).
The classification given above shows that no important doc-
trine of the courtly love of the early days is omitted in the
Troilus. Chaucer is clearly working within the limits imposed
by the principles and conventions of the system ; and only by
recognizing this fact can we understand the spirit of the poem. 1
Bearing it in mind, we may now proceed to our study of the
principal characters ; and we shall begin with the lover himself.
The sorrow of Troilus is the poet's primary theme :
The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen,
That was the king Priamus sone of Troye,
In lovinge, how his aventures fellen
Fro wo to wele, and after out of joye
My purpos is ... (i, i).
However much besides this Chaucer tells, the idea of speak-
ing of the ups and downs of lovers as woes and sorrows was
1 Disregard of this fact by writers on Chaucer's poem is the only reason for
the present analysis of the Troilus. Critics generally have formed the wrong
conception of Chaucer's hero and heroine, the present writer believes, because
they have failed to take into account the connection between the Troilus and
the courtly love ideas. The latest instance of this is the recent work on Chau-
cer by Legouis (Paris, 1910) ; see the study of the Troilus, pp. 116-127.
138 COURTLY LOVE
conventional. It is unnecessary, therefore, to refer to the numer-
ous places in which the author refers to his hero's pains, sighs,
groans, and to his dying for love. Omitting these, we may note
that Troilus exhibits the usual symptoms of courtly lovers :
1. Sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and paleness.
And fro this forth tho refte him love his sleep,
And made his mete his f oo ; and eek his sorwe
Gan multiplye, that whoso toke keep,
It shewed in his hewe, both eve and morwe (i, 70).
Chaucer again states, in his droll fashion, the same idea :
Nil I nought swere, although he laye softe,
That in his thought he nas sumwhat disesed
Ne that he tornede on his pilwes ofte (iii, 64).
2. Sickness. In arranging for the first meeting of the lovers
at the house of Deiphebus, Pandarus's plan is for Troilus to
Quod Troilus, " y-wis, thou nedeless
. Counseylest me, that sykliche I me feyne !
For I am syk in ernest, douteless,
So that wel neigh I sterve for the peyne " (ii, 219).
3. Fear to tell his lady of his woe. Pandarus, anxious to help
his friend, asks :
But tel me, if I wiste what she were,
For whom that thee al this misaunter ayleth,
Dorstestow that I tolde hir in hir ere
Thy wo, sith thou darst not thyself for fere,
And hir bisoughte on thee to have som routhe? (i, 1 10.)
4. Confusion and forgetfulness in the lady's presence. Troilus
rehearses in his mind what he will say to Criseyde at Deiphebus's
house (iii, 8) ; but when she speaks to him (10-1 1), he becomes
... his lesson, that he wende conne
To preyen hir, is thurgh his wit y-ronne (iii, 12).
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 139
The rest of the interview is quite as difficult for Troilus. The
poet describes him :
In chaunged vois, right for his verrey drede,
Which vois eek quook, and ther-to his manere
Goodly abayst, and now his hewes rede,
Now pale, unto Criseyde, his lady dere,
With look doun cast and humble yolden chere,
Lo, thalderfirste word that him asterte
Was, twyes, " mercy, mercy, swete herte ! "
We may next see how far the hero possesses the character of
the conventional lover. Pandarus deftly sounds the praises of
his friend in answering Criseyde's inquiry about Hector :
And eek his fresshe brother Troilus,
The wyse worthy Ector the secounde,
In whom that every vertu list abounde,
As alle trouthe and alle gentillesse,
Wysdom, honour, fredom, and worthinesse (ii, 23).
To which Criseyde replies that she hears how all those whose
opinion is to be valued praise Troilus both for his noble conduct
in the war and for his courtesy toward everybody while at home
(ii, 27). Pandarus, taking advantage of the situation, gives a
specific instance of Troilus's prowess, and adds that he is
. . . the freendlieste man
Of gret estat, that ever I saw my lyve (ii, 30).
The object of Pandarus in this interview is, of course, to paint his
friend's virtues in as glowing colors as possible. It is to be noted,
however, that his praise of Troilus is confirmed by the reports
which have reached Criseyde's ears, and by her own testimony
later in the poem. 1 By common consent, then, Troilus is known
for " trouthe," " alle gentillesse," "wysdom," "honour," "fre-
dom," "worthinesse," "prowesse in war" and "courtesye,"
- for such virtues, in short, as were conventionally required of a
1 Cf. ii, 95, 106.
140 COURTLY LOVE
knight and a lover. The same qualities are attributed, in almost
identical terms, to the model knight of the Prologue to the
Chaucer's own testimony concerning Troilus, as near as we
may arrive at it, is consistent with that of Pandarus and Criseyde.
In speaking of the effect which Pandarus's comforting words
have had upon the sighing Troilus, he says : " But Troilus lay
there no longer, but he mounted at once on his bay steed and
played the lion in the field. Woe to the Greek that met him that
day ! And in the town, from that time forth, his goodly manner
got for him the love and favor of all. For he became the friend-
liest creature, the gentlest, the most generous, the thriftiest
(i.e. the most efficient in every way), and the very best knight
that in his time was or might be. Gone were his jests and his
cruelty, his supercilious bearing and his disdainful manner ; and
each of these faults he exchanged for a virtue" (i, 155-156).
This is Chaucer's own characterization of his hero, for no word
of it is found in the Filostrato. But for a later description of
the effect of love on Troilus, he is indebted to the Italian :
In alle nedes for the tounes werre,
He was, and ay the firste in armes dight ;
And certeynly, but-if that bokes erre,
Save Ector, most y-drad of any wight ;
And this encrees of hardinesse and might
Cam him of love, his ladies thank to winne,
That altered his spirit so with-inne (iii, 254).
And most of love and vertu was his speche,
And in despyt hadde alle wrecchednesse ;
And doutelees, no nede was him biseche
To honouren hem that hadde worthinesse,
And esen hem that weren in distresse (iii, 256).
And though that he be come of blood royal,
Him liste of pryde at no wight for to chase ;
Benigne he was to ech in general,
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 141
For which he gat him thank in every place.
Thus wolde Love, y-heried be his grace.
That Pryde, Envye, Ire, and Avaryce
He gan to flee, and every other vyce (iii, 258).
This passage, in Chaucer and Boccaccio alike, simply states the
conventional effects of love on the lover, under the courtly system.
It is clear that Chaucer intended his hero to be worthy of the
spirited Criseyde and, as such, to have our sympathies. This is
what we should expect a priori. Chaucer's primary interest in
his mature productions is in characterization, and his method is
distinctly dramatic. In none of his work is this truer than in
the Troilus. 1 But however great his interest in character for
itself, the Troilus still retains enough of the nature it had in the
hands of Boccaccio to be called romance ; and, in treating it
as romance, is it likely that the poet would give to his heroine,
who attracted him and whom he wished to portray sympathet-
ically, a lover unworthy of her admiration or that of the reader ?
This could be done only on condition that she should not recog-
nize his inferiority. Chaucer leaves no doubt as to Criseyde's
opinion of Troilus ; she does not, as we have sen, regard him
as inferior, but as entirely worthy of her love ; and the expres-
sions with reference to him by Pandarus and by the author
himself show the correctness of her estimate. To Chaucer, as
to Criseyde, Troilus was a valiant warrior ; in prowess, second
only to Hector. But the prominence which is given in the
poem to another side of his nature is likely to produce a wrong
total impression of him. We have seen that under the system of
courtly love a knight, though absolutely fearless elsewhere, must
tremble before his lady. If his conduct in love only were to be con-
sidered, evidently our impression of him would be the wrong one.
Both Dares, in his meagre account, and Benoit de Ste. Maure
1 For a study of the dramatic features in the Troilus, see Price, A Study in
Chaucer's Method of Narrative Construction, Publ. Modern Language Assoc.,
1896, XI, 307-322.
142 COURTLY LOVE
describe Troilus as a valiant and thoroughly practical knight, 1
and in taking him for their hero neither Boccaccio nor Chaucer
wished to undervalue this element of his character. But for
the purpose of their story, the emphasis is put on another side.
They are interested in him primarily as a lover. As Chaucer
savs And if I hadde y-taken for to wryte
The armes of this ilke worthy man,
Than wolde I of his batailles endyte.
But for that I to wryte first bigan
Of his love, I have seyd as that I can (v, 253).
It seems to me, then, that one misses the spirit of the work if
one regards Chaucer as having conceived his hero as an un-
practical enthusiast, as a love-sick boy, who idealized not only
his lady but also his passion for her. 2 The fact we should keep
1 Chaucer, speaking of Troilus, tells us :
His worthy dedes, whoso list hem here,
Reed Dares, he can tell hem alle y-fere.
The direction to " reed Dares " is a bit misleading, since all that writer gives
in regard to Troilus is the description : " Troilum magnum, pulcherrimum, pro
aetate valentem, fortem, cupidum virtutis," and later the words :
Troilus Diomedem sauciat.
(See Daretis Phrygii De Excidio Troiae Historia, ed. F. Meister, Leipzig, 1872,
xii, 15; xxxi, 37.) Brief as this mention is, in describing him as "pro aetate
valentem " and " cupidum virtutis " it gives the same idea that is seen in
Benoit de Ste. Maure's lines :
Poi est meins forz en son endreit
Ne meins hardiz qu' Hector esteit ;
Li Roman de Troie, ed. Constans,
Paris, 1904-1908, 11. 3991-3992
Tant come il ert en bon talent,
Par esguardot si doucement,
Que deliz ert de lui vesir ;
Mais une rien vos di por veir,
Qu' il ert envers ses enemies
D'autre semblant e d'autre vis (ibid., 11. 5401-5406).
2 Mr. R. K. Root's view. See Root, The Poetry of Chaucer, pp. 192-195 ff.
Cf. "Bei Chaucer . . . ist er ein sproder Jungling " (Kissner, Chaiicer in seinen
Beziehungen zur italienischen Litteratur, Bonn, 1867, p. 44).
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 143
in mind is, that in presenting their hero, both Boccaccio and
Chaucer portray him in accord with the established courtly con-
vention as to what a lover should be ; and any seeming unprac-
ticality of his can be satisfactorily explained by a consideration
of him from this point of view. Certainly, we ought to estimate
his conduct by such conventions, rather than by present-day ideas.
Chaucer, in the character of Troilus, does not seriously
modify the Troilo of Boccaccio. It is true, however, that the
interest of the respective authors in their hero is different in
degree and in kind. It is generally held that Boccaccio's story
had an autobiographical purpose ; that in setting forth the story
of Troilo's utter subjugation by his love for Griseida, the Italian
author had in mind his own amour with the daughter of King
Robert of Naples. 1 For Boccaccio, therefore, the story centered
in Troilo and his sorrows. Chaucer's interest in Troilus, on
the other hand, not only lacked this personal element, but was
secondary to that which he felt for Criseyde ; for there is no
doubt that Chaucer's stronger personal sympathies were with
her, although the story is professedly written to tell the sorrows
of Troilus. The poet himself undoubtedly felt the charms of
his heroine. It is perhaps from a desire to magnify her attrac-
tive qualities that he makes Troilus's affair with her the first
love experience of the hero ; whereas, in Boccaccio, Troilo had
often before felt the stings of love. To Troilo, the amour with
Griseida was only one more in a series of love adventures ; 2 to
Troilus, it is the first and last fatal passion. The victory of
Love, working through the charms of Criseyde, was greater
because he brought down one who felt himself superior to the
1 Kissner, p. 42; Ebert, Review of Sandras's "Etude sur Chaucer" (trans-
lated), Chaucer Society Publications, 1868, p. 14.
2 I have herd told, pardieux, of your livinge,
Ye lovers, and your lewede observaunces (i, 29).
lo provai gia per la mia gran follia
Qual fosse questo maladetto fusco. Filostrato, i, 23.
144 COURTLY LOVE
powers of the god. If such was the purpose of the poet in
changing this detail, it follows that to Chaucer Troilus was no
weakling. Chaucer knew well what we often observe, that the
traits of character which make a man strong in one direction
make him equally strong in the opposite, when once his in-
terests and activities have been changed. Pandarus seems to
have seen such a man in Troilus ; for, in his ecclesiastical
phraseology, he expresses this very idea :
And, by my trouthe, I have right now of thee
A good conceyt in my wit, as I gesse,
And what it is, I wol now that thou see.
I thenke, sith that love, of his goodnesse,
Hath thee converted out of wikkednesse,
That thou shalt be the beste post, I leve,
Of al his lay, and most his foos to greve.
Ensample why, see now these wyse clerkes,
That erren aldermost ayein a lawe,
And ben converted from hir wikked werkes
Thorugh grace of god, that list hem to him drawe,
Than arn they folk that han most god in awe,
And strengest-feythed been, I understonde,
And conne an errour alder-best withstonde (i, 143-144).
Such a person is apt to feel deeply and intensely. I see no
objection to conceiving Troilus to be one who had strong con-
victions, together with a proud and supercilious manner of ex-
pressing them. After he was overcome by his passion for
Criseyde, the softening effect of love was seen in his change of
conduct. As the poet tells us, he became the friendliest person
in the city, the gentlest and the most generous :
Dede were his japes and his crueltee,
His heighe port and his manere estraunge,
And ech of tho gan for a vertu chaunge (i, 155).
But the very trait which before showed in the conviction that
he was superior to love's charms, now shows in the constancy
in love which he maintains to his death.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 145
There is, so far as I can see, nothing in the hero's conduct
after his subjugation by love which is inconsistent with this
conception of him. Mr. Root, in his handbook, says: "His
[Troilus's] . . . main attention is absorbed in the process of
idealizing the new-found mistress. It never occurs to him, how-
ever, to take any active steps in his own behalf.
' She nil to noon swich wrecche as I be wonne,'
he thinks ; would God I were arrived in the port of death, to
which my sorrow will lead me ! If Pandarus had not intervened,
it is probable that Troilus would never have spoken a word to
the lady of his heart. The love would have remained an ideal
passion, like that of Petrarch for his Laura." * Nothing, it
seems to me, could be more mistaken than the conclusion of this
statement. It is true that Troilus, up to the time that he con-
fided in Pandarus, did direct his attention to idealizing Criseyde ;
that, however, was what every courtly lover was expected to do
and did ; it is what most lovers do now-a-days. It is true, too,
that as yet he had taken no active steps in his own behalf, and
that he gave himself up to bewailing his misery. But here
again Troilus was acting exactly like the conventional courtly
lover. It was too early in the game for him to act for himself.
" Love which is won too easily is not prized," was a dictum as
old as the troubadours. Every lover was supposed to give him-
self up for a time to self-abasement, and to become the play-
thing of despair. When it occurred to him that he must die
unless his lady knew of his sorrow, then it was time for him to
act. We may not tell just how Chaucer would have made
Troilus behave without Pandarus's intervention. But we may
judge, perhaps, from what other lovers did in such circum-
stances. To say nothing of the many lovers in the Old French
literature, take the case of the knight in the Book of the Duchess.
1 Root, p. 1 1 6.
146 COURTLY LOVE
His lady knew nothing of his love for a long time, because he
was afraid to tell her, lest he should make her angry. Only
when he felt, But , tdle ^ , nam but dee<v
did he muster up courage to speak his love. The unhappy
Aurelius loved Dorigen
Two yeer and more, as was his aventure,
But never dorste he telle hir his grevaunce ;
Withouten coppe he drank al his penaunce.
But when he considered that he must die as did Echo for Nar-
cissus, he found courage to tell Dorigen of the passion that was
consuming him. The erotic literature of France and England
of the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries indicates that platonic
idealism was little known in these countries at that time. Troilus
wanted Criseyde and wanted her badly ; and it is highly improb-
able that his love would have remained an ideal passion like
Petrarch's for Laura. On the contrary, it is safe to assume
that it would have led him to seek his lady, as far as external
circumstances permitted, and to beseech her favor, even had not
Pandarus happened along at the proper moment. 2 In furnishing
IB. of D., 1 1 88.
2 Mr. Root (p. 117) quotes Troilus's statement,
But herke, Pandare, o word, for I nolde ^
That thou in me wendest so greet folye,
That to my lady I desiren sholde
That toucheth harm or vilenye (i, 148),
to show the platonic nature of the lover's affection. This is in fact a conven-
tional sentiment ; Pandarus, far from considering it platonic, understands the
conventionality of it, when he says :
And I thy borw ? fy ! no wight dooth but so (i, 149).
The best proof of the conventionality of the phrase is seen in the fact that
Boccaccio makes Troilo say the same thing :
Ed oltre a questo, Pandar, non vorria
Che tu credessi che io disiassi
Di cotal donna alcuna villania. Filostrato, ii, 31.
Surely, no one thinks of the love of Troilo and Griseide as platonic !
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 147
him the character Pandarus, Chaucer's " author Lollius " en-
abled him to manage the technique of his poem in accord with
the conventional ideas ; for the intermediary between the lover
and his lady was a recognized figure in mediaeval love affairs.
The scope of the works of Boccaccio and Chaucer, however,
allowed these authors highly to elaborate this feature ; and for-
tunately for those who love Chaucer, the exercise of his genius
has resulted in the magnificent portrayal of Pandarus. In hand-
ing the management of his love affair over to Pandarus, Troilus
does not, therefore, necessarily reveal his unpractical nature.
Does his lack of action at the Parliament make such a revelation ?
Chaucer gives as explanation of his hero's silence during the
negotiations for the exchange of Criseyde, the fear that men
might see his affection for her (iv, 22). Feeling thus, Troilus
decides to await developments, having in mind two things : first,
how to save her reputation ; second, how he might withstand the
exchange in case the Parliament decreed it (iv, 23). This was
a particularly hard problem for Troilus, since it was necessary to
do both things at the same time. If he wished to defeat the
purpose of the Parliament, he must do it in such a way as not
to compromise Criseyde. Evidently, such a thing was impossible.
But Chaucer assures us that his feelings were right in the matter :
Love him made al prest to doon hir byde,
And rather dye than she sholde go (iv, 24).
A twentieth-century lover, in free America, might, in these cir-
cumstances, have demanded his sweetheart in the face of all
opposition, if he had the courage. Troilus had the inclination
to do so. But what good would it have done ? What good did
Hector's opposition to the proposed exchange do ? Yet Hector
was more influential in Troy than was Troilus ; and he was not
actuated by any motives of personal interest. Troilus saw all
this; and saw, furthermore, that any open action on his part
148 COURTLY LOVE
would not only be useless, but would destroy all hopes of future
happiness with Criseyde.
But resoun seyde him, on that other syde,
* With-oute assent of hir ne do not so,
Lest for thy werk she wolde be thy fo,
And seyn, that through thy medling is y-blowe
Your bother love, there it was erst unknowe ' (iv, 24).
This would have spoiled everything. It was the business of the
mediaeval lover to keep his liaison secret and to submit to the
will of his mistress. Had it been the affair of husband and wife,
the hero might have taken things into his own hands. -But Troilus
and Criseyde were not married, and did not intend to be. Mere
prudence directed him to do just what he did do ; to speak out
at the Parliament would have been an action of unpractical
ras ness. With mannes nerte ne gan nis sorwes ^yg ^ v> 2 2),
and it seems clear that the poet intended him, in his trying situ-
ation, to act like a man, reserving his indulgence in grief for the
privacy of his room, instead of fainting in the presence of the
Parliament like Boccaccio's hero, Troilo. 1
In the interview with Pandarus which followed the decision
of Parliament, Troilus, it seems to me, shows himself of no
mean strength of character ; and it is equally clear, I think, that
Chaucer here intends to present him in the best light possible.
Pandarus finds him in the midst of lamentations over his cruel
fate, and, in his practical way, makes some suggestions,
... for the nones alle,
To helpe his freend, lest he for sorwe deyde.
For doutelees, to doon his wo to falle,
He roughte not what unthrift that he seyde (iv, 62).
His first suggestion is that Troilus take another mistress, since
it is unavoidable that Criseyde go to the Grecian camp ; and he
1 Filostrato, iv, 18. See on this point Kissner, p. 43.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 149
backs this up with his usual subtlety in argument. Troilus in his
reply to this suggestion appears to good advantage, even if we
measure his answer by present-day standards ; and certainly, if
we judge it by those of mediaeval times. He says that Pandarus's
suggestion would be very appropriate if he (Troilus) were a fiend.
But since he has promised to be true to Criseyde, he will remain
so, though he die. As for Pandarus's opinion that he may find
a fairer mistress, such comparisons are useless ; he cannot agree.
But above all, he has not the power to act on these suggestions ;
and if he had, he would not do so.
Thou most me first transmuwen in a stoon,
And reve me my passiounes alle,
Er thou so lightly do my wo to falle (iv, 67).
Defeated in this argument, the ever ready Pandarus suggests
the alternative of forcibly abducting Criseyde. Troilus's answer
is noteworthy. He says that he had thought of all this before,
and of much more than Pandarus suggested. Abduction was
out of the question if he cared anything for his own reputa-
tion ; everybody would blame him for opposing his father,
since Criseyde was exchanged for the good of the town. 1 He
had thought, he says, of asking Priam for Criseyde, provided
she would consent (a very important proviso) ; but this would be
sure to get her into trouble. The thing that he feared most of
all was bringing slander upon his lady ; he would rather die
than do this (iv, 81). His conclusion is that there is no way
out of his difficulty.
For certeyn is, sin that I am hir knight,
I moste hir honour lever han than me
In every cas, as lovere oughte of right.
Thus am I with desyr and reson twight ;
Desyr for to distourben hir me redeth,
And reson nil not, so myn herte dredeth (iv, 82).
1 iv, 78-79.
ISO COURTLY LOVE
Only one alternative is left to be considered ; that is, for
Troilus to marry Criseyde. Why does not marriage occur to him
and to her ? Kissner, in considering why both Boccaccio and
Chaucer have made their heroine a widow, explains : " Hatte
er Chryseis als junges Madchen dargestellt, so ware die ganze
Verwickelung der Knotenschurzung weggef alien." For, he ex-
plains, when Calchas asked for his daughter, all the hero would
have had to do would have been to step forth and claim her as
his wife. This would have left out the faithlessness of the hero-
ine, and would have made necessary an entirely different treat-
ment of the whole story. 1 Kissner's statement with regard to
the denouement of the story is evidently correct ; but not for
the reasons he gives. As a matter of fact, there would have
been no more reason for the hero's claiming Criseyde as a
maiden for his bride than Criseyde as a widow ; certainly no
objection attached to marrying a widow simply because she was
a widow. Kissner forgets that Troilus was in exactly the same
position as Hamlet :
He may not, as unvalued persons do,
Carve for himself.
As the son of the King of Troy, Troilus could not claim whom
he wished as bride, regardless of the wishes of others and of
the interest of the state. In Boccaccio's story difference of rank
is definitely mentioned as an obstacle to marriage. 2 In Chaucer's
1 Kissner, pp. 45-46.
2 See Filostrato, ii, 76 ; iv, 69. Griseida in thinking the matter over, which
Pandaro has proposed, says to herself :
chi al presente t' ama,
E di troppo piu alta condizione
Che tu non se'.
Troilo in giving an excuse for not asking Priam for Griseida, says :
Nfc spero ancora ch' el dovesse darla,
Si per non romper le cose promesse,
E perchfc la direbbe diseguale
A me, al qual' vuol dar donna reale.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 151
poem, while Criseyde is evidently a lady of high station, and
numbers among her friends members of the royal family, yet she
is not of the blood royal. She herself says of Troilus :
Eek wel wot I my kinges sone is he ;
And sith he hath to see me swich delyt,
If I wolde utterly his sighte flee,
Paraunter he mighte have me in dispyt,
Thurgh which I mighte stonde in worse plyt (ii, 102).
These lines show that the heroine recognized the superior rank
of her lover. The last line, too, recalls the " plyt " that she was
really in. When Calchas forsook the Trojan party and went
over to the Greeks, the Trojan populace, Chaucer tells us, were
so enraged that they immediately took steps to be avenged on his
family, threatening to burn them all. Criseyde was saved from
a terrible fate by appealing to the generosity of Hector. The
feeling which the people had against her is shown again in their
actions at the Parliament which decreed her exchange for Ante-
nor. Even the influence of Hector was not sufficient to withstand
their demand for the proposed exchange. Clearly, had Troilus,
or even Priam himself, been willing for the marriage of Troilus
and Criseyde to take place, the turbulent populace of Troy and
their hatred of everything and everybody connected with Calchas
would have had to be reckoned with. Thus we see that differ-
ence of rank as well as questions of state would have been real
barriers to the marriage. If Chaucer had been asked why he
did not have the two marry, these reasons would have been
natural ones to put forward. It is most likely, however, that the
question was not considered by him at all. The poet found the
plot of the story already made for him, and he chose to use it
as it was. To bring about a marriage between the hero and
heroine would have been to destroy the whole denouement. He
had his choice of telling the story without the marriage feature,
or of making it a story different from the one he wished to tell,
152 COURTLY LOVE
namely, one relating the faithlessness of Criseyde. Once more
we must remember that Chaucer is narrating a tale of courtly
love, with which marriage was incompatible. This was full and
sufficient reason, to say nothing of those already mentioned, for
adhering to his source.
The fact is, Troilus was face to face with a problem which
was insoluble, if the conditions of the story are to be kept intact.
These conditions render it necessary, first, that he, as a lover,
make his will subservient to that of his lady ; and, second, that
he shield her name at whatever cost. To violate either require-
ment is to come into conflict with his own sense of honor and
self-respect. In refusing to free himself from his predicament
at the expense of his honor, he shows himself a man of no small
courage. The question as to whether the conditions which hedge
the lover about are sensible or not, is irrelevant. We of this
time may not think so ; what Chaucer thought, does not affect
the case. He was working within the limitations of the conven-
tional ideas of what a lover should be. His plot involved those
ideas, and in following them out he brought his hero face to
face with a difficulty which he could not surmount without
compromise of honor.
Chaucer calls his poem a tragedy. 1 The force which brings
about the tragical end of the story is Fate, and this element is
brought into prominent relief throughout the poem. The author
makes it very plain that it is Fate that forces the two lovers apart.
But in effecting her purpose in this manner she works through
the strength of the hero, and only because of his strength of
character could she work as she did. Had Troilus followed
Pandarus's suggestion and abducted Criseyde, Fate might still
1 Bk. v, 1. 256. For Chaucer's idea of what made a tragedy, see the first stanza
of the Monk's Tale. See also Chaucer's gloss in Boethius, Bk. ii, Pr. 2:
"Tragedie is to seyn, a ditee of a prosperitee for a tyme, that endeth in
wrechednesse." Cf. ten Brink, Studien, Munster, 1870, p. 77.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 153
have operated in separating the two, but the end would have
had to be achieved in some way different from that described
by Chaucer in the poem as we have it.
It seems clear, then, that Chaucer conceived the character of
Troilus, not as a vacillating, visionary, unpractical weakling ; but
as a man of strength, with the courage of his convictions, whether
such convictions led him to oppose love or, having been over-
come by love, to be loyal till death. In addition to the quality
of physical courage, which every lover was expected to have, he
was endowed with sterling qualities of spirit. These it was which
the poet makes attract Criseyde. She says :
For trusteth wel, that your estat royal
Ne veyn delyt, nor only worthinesse
Of yow in werre, or torney marcial,
Ne pompe, array, nobley, or eek richesse,
Ne made me to rewe on your distresse ;
But moral vertu, grounded upon trouthe,
That was the cause I first hadde on yow routhe !
Eek gentil herte and manhod that ye hadde,
And that ye hadde, as me thoughte, in despyt
Every thing that souned into badde,
As rudenesse and poeplish appetyt ;
And that your reson brydled your delyt,
This made, aboven every creature
That I was your, and shal, whyl I may dure (iv, 239-240).
But how shall we explain some of the actions of Troilus which
seem strange to us, in a man of the strength of character he
appears to be ? To say nothing of his swooning at the bedside
of his beloved, what shall we say of the endless sighing and
weeping of the lover, and all the conduct which has led critics
to call him effeminate and unmanly ? Most of this can be ex-
plained by the conventions of love literature. Mediaeval lovers,
if we are to believe the literature, were an extraordinarily lachry-
mose lot. Lament was the principal article of their conduct, at
154 COURTLY LOVE
least up to the point when they gained the favor of their ladies,
and swoons were certain to occur under any unusual stress of
emotion. If these features are more noticeable in Troilus than
in other lovers, the explanation from our point of view may be,
perhaps, that his love opened up in him a vein of sentimentalism
which he himself did not before know that he possessed. The
question then is : Is sentimentality necessarily a sign of effem-
inacy ? and is it inconsistent with courage and strength of char-
acter ? That it was consistent with physical courage in the case of
Troilus is perfectly clear; and it seems, too, from what has already
been shown, that it was not inconsistent with strength of spirit.
The critics have expressed various opinions of the character
of Criseyde. Ten Brink's, often quoted, is as follows : " The
English Criseyde is more innocent, less experienced, less sensual,
more modest than her Italian prototype. What a multitude of
agencies were needed to inflame her love for Troilus ; what a
concatenation of circumstances, what a display of trickery and
intrigue, to bring her at last to his arms ! We see the threads of
the web in which she is entangled drawing ever closer around
her ; her fall appears to us excusable, indeed unavoidable ; and
if afterwards, after the separation, she does not resist the temp-
tation of Diomede, how is she accountable, if her mind is less
true and deep than that of Troilus? how is she accountable,
when that first fall robbed her of her moral stay ? . . . She only
gives her heart to Diomede when touched with sympathy for
the wounds he had received from Troilus ; and her infidelity is
immediately followed by repentance." 1 Ten Brink here seems to
picture the heroine as an innocent girl, who has been trapped
into committing a grievous fault in yielding to Troilus ; who was
involved in a chain of circumstances which was too powerful for
her feminine weakness and inexperience to break. As such, she
is to be pitied and her offence is to be condoned.
1 Ten Brink, Hist. Eng. Lit., Vol. II, pt. i, p. 92.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 155
Much the same attitude appears in the expression of Furnivall,
in which he speaks of Shakspere's conception of the character :
" To have the beautiful Cressida hesitating, palpitating like the
nightingale before her sin, driven by force of hard circumstances
which she could not control, into unfaithfulness to her love ;
to have this Cressida whom Chaucer spared for very ruth, set
before us as a mere shameless wanton, making eyes at all the
men she sees, and showing her looseness in the movement of
every limb, is a terrible blow." 1
In the statement of Courthope, 2 another idea is made promi-
nent. He says : " It is not till the fourth (sic) book that the
deterioration (italics are mine) of Cressida's nature reveals itself
incidentally in the facility with which she listens without dis-
pleasure though without response to the artful love making of
Diomede." Mr. Courthope seems to consider that Criseyde after
her departure from Troy is a different Criseyde from the one
figuring in the story up to this exchange of prisoners.
In opposition to these estimates of the heroine the
unfortunate innocent of ten Brink, and the double Criseyde of
Courthope and others Professor Cook comes forward with a
characterization 3 in which he considers the moral laxness of
the various Briseidas, Criseides, or Griseidas from Homer to
Boccaccio, as well as the despicable roles played by the various
prototypes of Pandarus and Calchas. After marshalling all the
evidence possible to show that the mistress of Boccaccio was
a shameless, sensual, self-indulgent, and heartless woman, he
holds that "Criseyde virtually represents Boccaccio's mistress." 4
1 Leopold Shakspere, London, 1880, p. Ixxx.
2 History of English Poetry, i, 264.
8 Pub. Mod. Lang. Assoc., 1907, pp. 531 ff.
4 Cook, p. 547. The general inference to be drawn from all this seems to
be, that the society in which Criseyde had been moving for the preceding cen-
turies was a bad lot, and that therefore little could be expected of her when
she got into Chaucer's hands !
156 COURTLY LOVE
Substantially the same view of the heroine is taken by Mr. Root,
in the characterization which he has elaborated from sugges-
tions by Professor Cook. 1 The total impression given by the
two characterizations is that Criseyde is a designing, calculat-
ing, sensual, " lightly-loving" adventuress, who plays " the role
of betrayed innocence with just sufficient reluctance before
the act, and reproach after it is accomplished, to carry out the
None of these views of the heroine, I believe, shows us
Criseyde as Chaucer conceived her. She is not, I think, inno-
cent ; at least in the sense that ten Brink seems to indicate.
Certainly she is not, in Chaucer, calculating and designing, even
if she is cool-headed. If we agree that she is amorous, it is
not necessary to conclude that she is the worse for this element
in her make-up. Finally the Criseyde who falls in love with
Diomede is not, I believe, different in her essential character
from the Criseyde who, until she met Diomede, was true to
Troilus. It will be worth while to see how these beliefs are
borne out by the poem itself.
In the first part of this study of the Troilus I have tried to
show, with some detail, that the story is told in terms of the
courtly love ideas, as embodied in the poetry of the troubadours
and in the work of Andreas Capellanus. Of this proposition
there can be no doubt ; as corollaries to it, there follow two
facts, a consideration of which underlies any correct estimate
of the heroine of the poem.
The first of these has been already mentioned in the state-
ment that Criseyde knew to what end her amour with Troilus
tended. This comes out clearly in the poem. In that first inter-
view of Pandarus with Criseyde, he argues that the worst that
could come of her showing some favor to Troilus would be that
1 See Cook, footnote to p. 531, and Root, footnote to p. 115.
2 Root, p. 114.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 157
people would wonder at Troilus's going and coming. But, he
continues, every one, unless he were a fool, would deem this
" love of friendship " (ii, 53) ; for, he says,
Swich love of freendes regneth al this toun (ii, 55).
He follows this up by reminding her that she is growing older,
and every hour wastes a part of her beauty. Criseyde under-
stands the drift of his argument, as is clear from her answer, in
which, weeping, she complains that he, whom she considered
her best friend, advised her to a love that it was his duty to
forbid (ii, 59). When Pandarus has effectually frightened her
into thinking that not only Troilus's, but his own life depends
on her relenting, she begins to look things in the face. She
considers the possibility of saving both her uncle's life and her
own good name (ii, 67-68) ; and she promises Pandarus that
she will try to please Troilus, as far as is consistent with keep-
ing her reputation unspotted (ii, 69). After Pandarus has gone,
and she is arguing with herself the advisability of loving Troilus,
she reckons in his favor the fact that he is no " boaster" :
To wys is he to do so gret a vyce (ii, 104).
" But," she adds significantly, " he will never get a chance to
boast of my favors." The heroine is, however, not at all sure of
her ground here ; she is wavering between loving and not lov-
ing ; she remembers how he is fit to have the love of the
very best woman in Troy, " so she hir honour save." The neces-
sity for guarding the reputation is clearly brought out. This is
to be a love which demands very especial precautions in this
respect. The first firm ground that she gets on in this self-
examination seems to be the conclusion :
And though that I myn herte sette at reste
Upon this knight, that is the worthieste,
And kepe alwey myn honour and my name,
By alle right, it may do me no shame (ii, 109).
158 COURTLY LOVE
This is practically the same conclusion that Pandarus had tried
to force on her mind in the interview ; he held that as long as
they could blind people and make them think that this was a
case of " love of friendship " there could be no harm.
Taken in connection with Criseyde's anxiety to keep her fair
name, the numerous references to secrecy have more than
conventional significance. After the meeting at the house of
Deiphebus, in which Criseyde promises Troilus her love, Pan-
darus is much concerned about its being kept strictly secret.
But gode brother, do now as thee oughte,
For goddes love, and keep hir out of blame,
Sin thou art wys, and save alivey hir name (iii, 38),
for her name was as yet " halwed" among people, and no man
could say that she had ever done amiss (iii, 39). And Pandarus
goes on to preach a little sermon on the evils of boasting of
favors received from women. Troilus, in his exaltation of spirit,
not only promises to keep everything secret, but bids Pandarus
choose for his amie whichever of his (Troilus's) sisters pleases
him best. And he kept his promise faithfully, the poet assures
us. No one could have told by word or deed of his, what were
his intentions in this matter. In short, he was so discreet in
everything and so secret that Criseyde laid aside her fears, and
felte he was to hir a wal
Of steel, and sheld from every displesaunce (iii, 69).
After the first night of the lovers together, Criseyde urges
Troilus to haste away,
Or elles I am lost for evermo ! (iii, 204)
Pandarus's admonition, too, when Troilus tells him of his joys,
is, in effect : " JCeep it quiet ; do and say nothing rash " ; and
Troilus's answer shows that he realizes that Criseyde's fair
name is at stake (iii, 232-234). When the parliament, at which
Troilus is present, decides to exchange Criseyde for Antenor,
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 159
the lover can say nothing, lest men see his affection. He
decides to wait, casting in his mind,
how to save hir honour (iv, 23).
Later, he rejects Pandarus's advice to abduct Criseyde, because
It moste been disclaundre to hir name (iv, 81).
When Criseyde unfolds her plan of going to the Greek camp
and returning in ten days, she comforts Troilus by telling him :
I see that ofte, ther-as we ben now,
That for the beste, our conseil for to hyde,
Ye speke not with me, nor I with yow
In fourtenight ; ne see yow go ne ryde (iv, 190).
When Troilus, in this same interview, urges her to flee with him,
she objects :
And also thenketh on myn honestee
That floureth yet, how foule I sholde it shende,
And with what filthe it spotted sholde be,
If in this forme I sholde with yow wende (iv, 226).
This insistence on secrecy and the fear of slanderous tongues,
this anxiety to keep her name unspotted, not only on the part of
Pandarus and Troilus, but on that of Criseyde herself, can mean
but one thing. All seems to point to the fact that the heroine
knew from the outset that this amour meant ultimately a full
and complete yielding to the passion of Troilus.
The second fact following from the statement that the Troilus
is told in terms of the courtly love is that Criseyde 's crime does
not consist in her yielding to Troilus, but in her unfaithfulness
to him. We have seen that at heart the courtly system of love
was sensual ; that its basic principle was the ennobling power of
a love which from the Christian point of view is illicit. All the
characters in the poem are believers in the religion of Love ;
and Criseyde, as well as the rest, is not a Christian, even though
she says it would be more becoming for her as a widow to be
160 COURTLY LOVE
reading " holy seintes lives " than to be dancing a May dance
(ii, 17). Clearly, she is not to be blamed for what is a part of
the system. On the other hand, constancy was a cardinal prin-
ciple of courtly love, and in giving her love to Diomede she was
sinning' against the religion of which she was an adherent.
One other important point in addition to those named is to
be noted in connection with the heroine ; this is the fact that
Chaucer has carefully provided that she be a widow. In Benoit
of Ste. Maure, she is unmarried ; in Boccaccio's story, on the
other hand, she is a widow, the Italian poet making the change,
probably, to suit more nearly the circumstances of his own love
affair. 1 Chaucer, in taking up the story, wisely retained this
feature as he found it in Boccaccio ; for the bearing of Criseyde's
widowhood on her conduct in the Troilus is as clear as it is
important. So far as Chaucer's story, or Boccaccio's either, is
concerned, we have no reason to think that the heroine, up to
the time of meeting Troilus, had been otherwise than discreet
and circumspect in the highest degree. On the contrary, the
impression is given strongly that she had been a true and faith-
ful wife to her husband now dead. But as a wife she had lost
the bloom of her virgin innocence ; and in a perfectly legitimate
way she knew things that as an unmarried woman she would
not be expected to know, and, indeed, would have no business
knowing. Clearly then Criseyde is not innocent in the sense
that ten Brink's statement seems to indicate, if I have the
correct impression of the meaning of his remarks.
If now we start with a heroine of whom the things just indi-
cated are true : namely, that she is not innocent, and that she
is fully conscious to what length she will be called to go, in case
she decides to love Troilus ; if we start with such a heroine,
1 See Cook, p. 537 ; quoting from Delia Torre, he shows that Maria of the
Fiammetta, whom the critics take to be figured in Griseida, was already
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 161
remembering at the same time that, in case she does yield to
Troilus, she is committing no fault from the point of view of
the courtly system of love, in what light does her conduct in the
story place her character ? In the first place, may we say she is
designing or calculating ? 1 Let us see how her mind works in
her interview with Pandarus, in which he has told her that
Troilus loves her, adding at the same time that if the knight
dies for her love, she will be responsible, not only for Troilus's
death but for her uncle's. The reader cannot fail to notice with
what skill Pandarus has managed his side of this conversation ;
how he has whetted her curiosity, how he has insinuated that
her beauty is the cause of a passion in Troilus which may lead
him to do violence to himself, and lastly how he has deftly
hinted, and only hinted, at what he should like her to do for
Troilus, and for him as the friend of Troilus and at the same
time her uncle. Pandarus is sly ; and who should realize this
better than Criseyde, his own niece, who must have known him
intimately for a long time ? She grasps the situation, though
vaguely, in a minute, and realizes that here is a design which
concerns her closely. She thinks :
I shal fele what he meneth, y-wis.
What could be more natural for a cool-headed person like Cri-
seyde to think ? For the heroine realizes that she must have her-
self well in hand in dealing with an adversary like her uncle ;
and she is quite able to take care of herself. And so she asks :
Now eem . . . what wolde ye devyse,
What is your reed, I sholde doon of this ?
1 See Cook, p. 547 : " It is evident that Criseyde knew how to woo, under
the guise of being wooed." Also Root : " There is an air of cool deliberation
about this which strikes one as quite incongruous " (p. 108). " Once more
one discovers that curious tone of calculation" (p. 109). "Attention must
be called again to the tone of calm calculation, not to say casuistry which
characterizes it" (p. 109), all referring to speeches by Criseyde.
1 62 COURTLY LOVE
This gives Pandarus the opportunity he wants ; and he presses
Troilus's claims, and reminds her that age is wasting every hour
a part of her beauty. But he goes too far. She tearfully re-
proaches him for persuading her to love, when his duty should
lead him to forbid it. He falls back on a more telling argument,
and works upon her pity through her sense of fear, holding
before her constantly the probability of Troilus's death and of
his own. The poet here assures us that Criseyde was naturally
easily frightened :
She was the ferfulleste wight
That mighte be.
Are we to believe this ? Most certainly so, I think. Effectually
frightened, she detains Pandarus, who had hastily started away,
after making his threats of violence to himself. She now feels
sorry for him and she begins to look at affairs squarely,
And thoughte thus, ' unhappes fallen thikke
Alday for love, and in swich maner cas,
As men ben cruel in hem-self and wikke ;
And if this man slee here him-self , alias !
In my presence, it wol be no solas,
What men wolde of hit deme I can nat seye.'
We are apt to laugh at the probability of self-violence as the
result of love. And yet we know at this day, just as Criseyde
thought, that " unhappes fallen thikke alday for love/' and
" unhappes " of the very kind Criseyde feared. She regains her
coolness quickly, thinking,
It nedeth me ful sleyly for to pleye.
Is there a tone of calculation about this line ? I cannot see it.
Criseyde encounters a difficulty, and she faces it fairly and
squarely. She is prudent and careful of her actions, and still
cool-headed. Shall we, for this reason, call her " calculating " ?
The truth is, she is here showing what comes out more
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 163
clearly later in the poem one of her most noticeable traits, the
ability and willingness to look at facts in the face. And so she
succeeds in satisfying her crafty uncle, without at the same time
committing herself to any course of action which will lead her
into difficulty in the future. This done, she shows the womanly
side of her nature in her desire to hear more of the new lover.
After Pandarus's departure, Criseyde considers the new turn
that her affairs have taken. It is just now that Troilus comes
riding by, and she sees him in his glory as a knightly hero.
She remembers that this is the man who, her uncle swears, will
die if she does not show him her pity. Naturally enough, she
begins to consider the matter in all its phases. The lure of this
new love which is just awaking in her is strong, but there are
arguments against it.
And, lord ! so she gan in hir thought argue
In this matere of which I have yow told,
And what to doon best were, and what eschue,
That plyted she ful ofte in many fold.
Now was hir herte warm, now was it cold,
And what she thoughte somwhat shal I wryte,
As to myn auctor listeth for to endyte.
Then follows that remarkable soliloquy of the heroine. The
arguments in favor of her loving him are strong : i. The " per-
son " and " gentilesse " make him a fit and attractive lover.
2. He is her king's son ; and since his delight is in seeing her,
it would be very unwise, considering her " estat," to scorn him.
3. It is almost certain to her that Troilus " means well." 4. He
is discreet; he is no boaster. Of these four reasons, the first
appeals to the distinctly feminine element in her. The other
three are what might be called more practical considerations ;
they concern more than her personal affections. Her position
in the city was already not enviable, on account of the treason
of her father ; it was the part of wisdom not to go too fast in
1 64 COURTLY LOVE
absolutely ignoring the wish of the son of the king, whom her
father had betrayed. As for the other considerations, they are
important for any sensible young woman to have in mind, before
going too far. The mediaeval love literature makes at least one
thing clear : that false lovers were as numerous as they are
to-day, and that the lady who was deceived by one of these had
every reason to cry, "Alas ! had I known ! " If Criseyde had
been an ultra-romantic young maiden, the thought of being loved
by a king's son might easily have set her heart in a flutter, and
have made her forget or neglect very practical considerations.
But she was not a maiden ; she had. already been wooed and won.
Shall we call her " calculating " because she weighs every side
of this important question ? Why not rather call her wise ?
But there are other arguments in favor of the new love.
Troilus is " out and out " the worthiest man in Troy, save
Hector ; and he is fit to have for his love the very best lady,
in every respect, in all the " noble town " ;
And yet his lyf al lyth now in my cure.
And then follows that remarkable example of her facing the
facts in the case, which is so noticeable in the heroine. She
realizes that she is the very fairest and " goodliest " woman in
all the town of Troy, and so everybody says. What wonder is
it that Troilus loves her ? She is her own woman, young and
free. She is not a nun. Why shall she not set her heart at
rest on this worthy Troilus, provided she can keep her name
unspotted ? We must answer for Criseyde that there is no rea-
son for her not granting him her love, and every reason for her
doing so, if we decide the question from the only fair point of
view, that of the courtly love ideas. One line in this soliloquy
should not be lost sight of. The poet is careful to have her say,
when she is considering her physical charms,
Al wolde I that noon wiste of this thought.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 165
This absolves her from the charge of immodesty. There cer-
tainly is nothing immodest in a woman's recognizing her own
beauty, as long as she does not publish the fact that she recog-
nizes it. Chaucer has here shown us the innermost workings of
the mind of his heroine, as, indeed, he has with all the impor-
tant characters of his drama. There is danger of our forming
unfavorable opinions of these characters from our very intimacy
with their private thoughts thoughts which were perfectly
natural and legitimate for them to have, but the publishing of
which would be inexcusable. Critics would do well to bear this
in mind, for instance, in speaking of Troilus as effeminate and
unpractical. Certainly the people of Troy did not consider him
in any such light, as he gave them no reason to do so. And so
in this soliloquy, if we should lose sight of this principle, it
would be possible for us to start with Criseyde's frank recogni-
tion that she is of an amorous disposition, and then, passing
from this to her conclusion that there is no reason why she
should not grant her love to Troilus, to make her out not only
immodest but even brazen. Clearly, this would be absolutely the
wrong impression of her, if we may judge her by her conduct
in relation with Pandarus and Troilus. After coming to her
conclusion, she still goes on to consider the arguments for
and against it. There is the question of giving up her liberty,
and of the " stormy lyf " that lovers lead, of the disadvantage
a woman is at in a love affair, of the jangling of "wikked
tongues," of the faithlessness of men in general. But after all,
in accord with her strong practical bent, she decides to take
chances in the matter, concluding that
... he which that no-thing undertaketh,
No-thing ne acheveth, be him looth or dere.
This soliloquy of Criseyde may rightly be considered as the poet's
revelation to the reader of the character of his heroine. If we
1 66 COURTLY LOVE
can form an estimate of her from this scene, it will then be
possible to see whether the character remains constant through-
out the poem.
Such an estimate is possible ; for certain things come out
clearly in the first real presentation of the heroine. In the first
place, she is amorous. We have her own words for this :
What shal I doon ? to what fyn live I thus ?
Shal I nat loven, in cas if that me leste ?
What, par dieux ! I am nought religious !
by which, of course, she means she is not the kind of woman to
be a nun. We also have Pandarus's testimony as to this char-
acteristic of his niece :
And for to speke of hir in special,
Hir beautee to bithinken and hir youthe,
// sit hir nought to be celestial
There is the element in her nature that makes her fond of the
opposite sex. It is well to observe that there is nothing improper
in this. We may accept Pandarus's observation as being true,
broadly speaking :
Was never man ne woman yet bigete
That was unapt to suffren loves hete
Celestial, or elles love of kinde.
If some women are devoid of tendencies toward " love of kinde,"
there is nothing unnatural or in any way improper in such ten-
dencies in other women. We must not assume that an amorous
disposition in Criseyde means a sensual nature.
Another thing that comes out clearly in Criseyde' s soliloquy
is that she is not sentimental. The practical manner in which
she considers and weighs every side of the important question
of granting her love indicates this. Here was a love offered to
her, which might well sweep any young woman, too romantically
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 167
inclined, off her feet. But not Criseyde. She looks at things as
they are, and as they may turn out to be. The poet has made
her, in this respect, a foil to the sentimental Troilus.
Another characteristic of the heroine appears, not in the
soliloquy, but in the interview with Pandarus : she is perfectly
self-possessed and cool-headed under fire, so to speak. She has
a quick wit, and when in her arguments with Pandarus she
It nedeth me ful sleyly for to pleye,
she puts her wits to work against her crafty opponent.
It is important to note some elements not found in her char-
acter. It has appeared, I trust, in the foregoing discussion, that
Criseyde was not designing and calculating ; at least these words,
with their present connotations, are not the correct ones to apply
to her. Furthermore, there is nothing in all the first part of
the poem to leave the impression that she is bold or immodest ;
Chaucer's description of her while at the temple, as standing
With ful assured loking and manere,
indicates no more than a modest, quiet self-control on her part,
and agrees well with what we see of her later in the poem.
We have in Criseyde, then, a young widow of strongly amorous
nature, but circumspect and modest ; of a quick and ready wit
and a cool head ; without sentimentality, but with a marked
ability to face facts which concern her and her welfare closely.
This young woman is made the heroine of a poem, told in accord
with the ideas of courtly love, a love which in its essence is
sensual, and which ultimately, as the heroine well knows, de-
mands a complete yielding to the passion of the hero. How
does this young woman conduct herself in the later parts of
the poem ?
The next important appearance of Criseyde, after her solilo-
quy, is in the interview with Troilus at the house of Deiphebus.
1 68 COURTLY LOVE
Troilus is pretending to be sick, and at the approach of Criseyde
he makes a movement to arise and " do [her] honor in some
wyse." She gently stops him and reveals her purpose in coming
to see him : first to thank him for his " lordshipe " in the past,
and to beg a continuance of it. To Troilus, who was feeling the
propriety of his beseeching her for favor, rather than of being
besought by her, the situation was embarrassing, and he was
unable to keep from showing his feelings in his blushes and
confusion. Criseyde al this aspyede wel ynough,
For she was wys.
It is possible to give these last four words in reading, a meaning
that would be entirely wrong in the connection ; a knowing wink,
a shrug, a peculiar inflection of the voice would easily enough
convey the impression that Criseyde is here a designing and
crafty adventuress. Taken as the poet evidently means them, the
words mean no more than a statement of what is indeed true of
most women in their love affairs. How many women, charming
and innocent ones too, are unaware of the feelings of their lovers,
even before such feelings have been declared? Criseyde was
" wys " in this manner ; and nothing more need be implied in
the words. True to her feminine nature, however, she coyly
leads Troilus on to declare his passion :
... I wolde him preye
To telle me the fyn of his entente ;
Yet wiste I never wel what that he mente.
Then follow the lover's protestations of his desire to serve her
patiently and humbly, in the genuine courtly fashion. The same
Criseyde appears that we have seen before. She is cool and
With that she gan hir eyen on him caste
Ful easily, and ful debonairly,
Avysing hir, and hyed not to faste
With never a word.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 169
Quietly she tells him that she accepts him as a lover on the terms
that he has just devised. And it must be noticed that the terms
proposed were the most favorable ones possible to Criseyde. She
expressly stipulates that
A kinges sone al-though ye be, y-wis,
Ye shul na-more have soverainetee
Of me in love, than right in that cas is.
She is acting within her rights here ; for as her lover, Troilus
could have no "soverainetee." Her discretion is manifest, in
reminding him of the fact. She never forgets that in dealing
with the sly Pandarus, and this young king's son hot with love
It nedeth me ful sleyly for to pleye.
Yet it must also be noted that the manner in which she promises
her favor to Troilus is exquisitely charming and tender :
And shortly, dere herte and al my knight,
Beth glad, and draweth yow to lustinesse,
And I shal trewely, with al my might,
Your bittre tornen al into swetnesse,
If I be she that may yow do gladnesse,
For every wo ye shal recover a blisse ;
And him in armes took, and gan him kisse.
At this point in the story we are to understand that Criseyde
is fully decided in her mind to enter into this love affair with
Troilus. True to the courtly ideas, the poet has kept her from
granting her love, or even encouragement, too easily. He is very
particular about defending her against any possible charge of
lightness : ,
For I sey nought that she so sodeynly
Yaf him hir love, but that she gan enclyne
To lyke him first, and I have told yow why ;
And after that, his manhod and his pyne
Made love withinne hir to myne,
For which, by proces and by good servyse,
He gat hir love, and in no sodein wyse.
I/O COURTLY LOVE
And the poet has skilfully arranged it, so that we have seen the
workings of her mind in considering all the arguments for and
against this new love. It has become plain, I think, that she
has been no easy wanton, simply waiting for the opportunity to
give herself fully to Troilus. On the other hand, it is equally
important to note that she has not been a prude. She has kept
in mind her own interests in the matter and, when she decided
to enter fully into this love, has done so with her eyes open.
With his heroine in this state of mind, the poet is now ready
for the climax of his story. This occurs in the meeting of the
two lovers at the house of Pandarus.
The tender womanliness of Criseyde in this scene, in her
endeavors first to satisfy the misgivings of Pandarus, and after-
ward to soothe Troilus, who, she is made to believe, is mad with
jealousy ; the pathos of her being accused of a fault of which
she is entirely innocent ; the delicacy of her nature which is re-
vealed in her meeting the accusation, all these things I pass
over, important as they are in their bearing on the character of
Criseyde. He who, in reading this scene, does not feel them,
reads superficially, or with very little sympathy. Leaving these
features, I wish only to look at one part of the interview in its
relation to that side of Criseyde's character which has been under
consideration. When Pandarus is arranging this meeting, and
invites Criseyde to his house, the heroine's suspicions are aroused
enough to make her inquire whether or not Troilus will be there.
In his humorous, non-committal manner Chaucer declares:
Nought list myn auctor fully to declare
What that she thoughte whan he seyde so,
That Troilus was out of town y-fare,
As if he seyde ther-of sooth or no.
But, on the whole, the poet subtly makes us feel that Pandarus's
reassurances are sufficient to allay the heroine's suspicions, and
that she went to his house in innocence. Yet, after the scenes
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 171
in which Troilus's feigned jealousy has been appeased, and he
has been permitted to remain with her, we have the show of
amorous violence on the hero's part, and his demand that she
yield. To which she replies :
Ne hadde I er now, my swete herte dere,
Ben yolde, y-wis, I were now not here !
What shall we say to these words of Criseyde ? There is only
one thing that can be said, that they are a delicate way of
stating the truth in the matter. If Criseyde had not already
yielded in her mind, she certainly would not have been at the
house of Pandarus. For, knowing, as she did, what was involved
in her deciding to love Troilus par amours, the moment she
decided to take him for " my knight, my pees, my suffisaunce,"
she had yielded then in her own mind. Let us, as Criseyde did,
"set a cas." Suppose Criseyde had promised to marry Troilus in
a legitimate fashion ; would she not have foreseen the events of
her wedding night ? With equal clearness, in becoming the amie
of Troilus, she saw that at some time there must follow the same
events. The difference in the two cases lies in the uncertainty as to
the time of the final adjustment of affairs. This very uncertainty
as to events which Criseyde knew must come about some time
or other, enables the poet to give the air of surprise which is
about the story as he tells it ; for there is no doubt that the
heroine is surprised in this scene, and Chaucer thus saves her
from easy yielding. But with all this, there can be no doubt
that she went to Pandarus' s house feeling that possibly she might
meet Troilus there, and matters would arrange themselves as
they did. Before we condemn her for thus walking " with a
hidden smile into the trap set by Pandarus with such needless
craft," 1 we must remember once more that in making herself
a party to the transactions of this night she is doing nothing
1 Root, p. 114.
172 COURTLY LOVE
wrong according to the courtly ideas. Her honor has received
no stain. Only by judging her and her actions by standards
which have no place in this story, can we up to this point make
her out a bad woman. She is amorous, and the poet intended
to represent her so ; not cold and hard-hearted, but fond of men
and at the same time conscious of the power of her beauty and
wit over them. She is not light and easy in yielding herself, but
ready to enjoy the extreme joys of love, when it is proper under
the system for her to do so ; yet, up to this point of the story,
she is true and faithful to one lover. To her amorous propen-
sities she adds both the ability and the desire to look after her
own welfare. She has also all the tenderness and the delicacy
of womanly feeling which makes woman charming in the eyes
of men. This is the Criseyde that Chaucer leaves with us at
the close of the third book of the Troilus. Do we see the same.
Criseyde, or another, in the last two books ? Does her character
undergo deterioration after her departure from Troy ?
We may note that from the time that the heroine first learns
of the decision of the Parliament to exchange her for Antenor
to the day of her departure there is no change in her character.
Pandarus, who from the beginning has had the interests of the
hero at heart, now appeals to Criseyde to use her womanly re-
sourcefulness to relieve her lover of his bitter sorrow. This
appeal is not in vain. Nowhere in the poem does the practical
side of Criseyde's nature, and at the same time her tenderness,
appear better than here, where she strives, though suffering
quite as acutely as the herd, to forget her own sorrow out of
consideration for her lover's feelings, and brings to bear all her
womanly wit on the situation. She conveys to Troilus her
reasons for thinking it best to accede to the wishes of the Parlia-
ment, and also her plan of action after reaching the Grecian
camp. She feels confident that she can manage her father and
handle the situation so that she shall be able to return to Troy
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 173
within the ten-day limit. It is perfectly clear that in all this
Criseyde is honest ; she is yet true to her lover ; and her sorrow
at leaving is quite as poignant as that of the hero who remains
behind. The poet is careful that at this point we do not get
the wrong impression of her, and he assures us :
And treweliche, as writen wel I finde,
That al this thing was seyd of good entente ;
And that hir herte trewe was and kinde
Towardes him, and spak right as she mente,
And that she starf for wo neigh, whan she wente,
And was in purpos ever to be trewe ;
Thus writen they that of hir werkes knewe.
There is every probability that Criseyde would have succeeded
in managing things according to her plans, but for the fact that
there now entered into the case circumstances which were too
strong for her to cope with. She had stated to Troilus before
leaving, her belief and hope that the war would soon end
favorably to the Trojans ; and, in such a case, she might easily
return. When she gets to the Grecian camp, she finds that
there is no foundation for this belief and hope. Her efforts to
hoodwink her father also fail. In short, nothing turns out as
she expected, and she is powerless to do anything but wait. In
addition to this, Diomede, from the moment he met her on his
way to the camp, began his wooing. But let us note that, while
she was polite and courteous to him, she was, at least up to the
tenth day, true to Troilus and fully determined to keep her
promise. She realizes that she has acted imprudently in not
taking Troilus's advice and fleeing with him ; but she decides
that she will on the morrow, "betyde what betyde," steal back
to the city. But the morrow brought forth new reasons for not
going. Diomede now begins his suit in earnest ; and he shows
himself a past master in the art of love-making. It is now that
the very traits which we have seen in her character in the
1/4 COURTLY LOVE
earlier part of the story, begin to appear again in her conduct
and in her thinking. Already convinced that she shall not be able
to manage her father as she had hoped, she comes to realize
fully and unmistakably that the city of Troy is doomed, with all
its inhabitants. Criseyde's tendency to look at things as they
are and to determine her actions in accord with what seems her
own best interests now exerts itself. She decides that it will be
useless to go back to Troy and sacrifice herself in the destruc-
tion of the city. Besides, here is the powerful argument to keep
her, that a dashing young man is offering himself as her lover.
We do not trust this fine young Greek ourselves. His external
brilliancy makes us feel that he is seeking only temporary
pleasure in striving to win the heroine from her Trojan lover.
Yet we feel that he is just the man to take her heart by storm.
Knowing her amorous nature as we do, we are sure that she
cannot hold out long against the seductive charms of this new
hero. She must have a lover ; indeed Criseyde without a lover
is inconceivable. Love is happiness to her, and as she says,
Felicitee clepe I my suffisaunce.
Since this is true, certainly had circumstances permitted her to
remain in Troy, she would have been faithful to Troilus. As
circumstances are, she realizes that the happy life in the city is
a closed chapter. And so, true to her nature, she decides to
act in accord with what she considers her best interests and her
happiness. 1 She had done so before when she had given her
love to Troilus. She does so now when she yields to Diomede.
In the former case, though her action involved a surrender to
1 Retorning in hir soule ay up and doun
The wordes of this sodein Diomede,
' His greet estat, and peril of the toun,
And that she was allone and hadde nede
Of freendes help ; and thus bigan to brede
The cause why, the sothe for to telle,
That she tok fully purpos for to dwelle (v, 147).
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 175
the passion of her lover, she did nothing wrong according to
the code by which her actions were supposed to be governed.
In the latter, she commits a definite and a heinous offense
against that code. It is well to note that Criseyde herself
realized the enormity of the offense. It never occurred to her,
we may also observe, that she had done anything wrong in
yielding to her amorous propensities in her relations with
Troilus. Her sole sin was this particular, definite falseness in
love, and it was this which caused her remorse.
But trewely, the story telleth us,
Ther made never wommen more wo
Than she, whan that she falsed Troilus.
She seyde, alias ! for now is dene ago
My name of trouthe in love, for evermo /
For I have falsed oon the gentileste.
That ever was, and oon the worthieste /
Her reproach was all the greater, because, at the very time she
began to consider giving herself to Diomede, she was still in
love with Troilus. To some men and women it is undoubtedly
possible to love two persons at the same time. Criseyde was of
such a nature ; for the poet makes it very clear that, up to the
time that Diomede carried away her glove,
. . . she . . . hadde hir herte on Troilus
So faste, that ther may it noon arace.
Although it is pretty clear to us when she decides to give
Diomede her heart, we must note that the poet, with a subtle
touch, tries to save her from the charge of lightness by assur-
ing us that it will be useless to consult the books to see how
long it was after forsaking Troilus that she gave herself to
Diomede. But he adds : '
. . . though that he [Diomede] began to wowe hir sone,
Er he hir wan, yet was ther more to done.
1/6 COURTLY LOVE
Even after her decision to be true " algate " to Diomede, her
feeling for Troilus is still clear :
But Troilus, sin I no better may,
And sin that thus departen ye and I.
.Yet preye I god, so yeve yow right good day
As for the gentileste, trewely,
That ever I say, to serven feithfully,
And best can ay his lady honour kepe :
And with that word she brast anon to wepe.
Circumstances have so brought it about that henceforth Troilus
can be to her nothing more than a tender memory. *
From the foregoing considerations it appears that in giving
her love to Diomede, Criseyde did nothing which was not in
accord with her nature and character as revealed in the first
part of the poem. She shows the same tendency to decide
matters in accord with her own interests. She grants her love
after deliberation, as she did when she decided to love Troilus.
If she is not so cool-headed in the latter case, it is because she
has her own conscience to reckon with, an element which did
not enter into the former. There is the same strong appeal to
the amorous disposition as in the affair with Troilus. In short
the Criseyde of the latter part is the Criseyde of the earlier ;
only circumstances are changed.
It is the fashion to say that the heroine's nature has deterio-
rated in her relations with Troilus. 1 Once more, we must recall
the fact that, according to courtly love ideas, such relations did
not degrade. On the contrary, they were supposed to ennoble
and uplift. The question as to the soundness of such philosophy
is aside from our consideration of Criseyde. Since, however,
her relations with her former lover may not be considered
wrong, it is clearly unjustifiable to say that her character had
1 Dr. Root's statement (p. 115) may be regarded as typical: "Her poten-
tially sensual nature has inevitably deteriorated in her relations with Troilus."
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 177
undergone a gradual deterioration. It was circumstances, the
poet makes clear, which led her to commit the sin for which
her " belle " has been " ronge " from then till now. It was a
definite, single offense ; one that she committed deliberately,
although she did it sorrowfully.
The charm and sweetness of this exquisitely feminine figure
every sympathetic reader realizes. But it is well to keep in
mind her faults ; for there are some traits in her character
which cannot be called admirable. She is far from being an-
gelic. Angels, however, would make but poor lovers. In giving
her faults the poet has made her a decidedly human creature, one
that we can sympathize with and pity when she does not meas-
ure up even to what might be regarded as a fair human standard.
This is clearly Chaucer's own attitude toward her ; and it will,
I think, be the attitude of the reader who, like Chaucer, has a
sympathetic appreciation of human frailty. Such a reader will
gladly say with him : *
Ne me ne list this sely womman chyde
Ferther than the story wol devyse.
Hir name, alias ! is publisshed so wyde
That for hir gilt it oughte y-now suffyse.
And if I mighte excuse hir any wyse,
For she so sory was for hir untrouthe,
Y-wis I wolde excuse hir yet for routhe.
If the foregoing conception of Criseyde's character be correct,
we shall not have to assume that the poet has attempted to mis-
lead us into believing that the heroine is a virtuous woman
seduced by treachery, in order to shock and surprise us by her
conduct with Diomede, and that in so doing he has resorted to
an artistic duplicity. 1 It will be equally unnecessary, to charge
the poet with having left us in Troilus and Criseyde a "broken-
backed " story, because of his failure to explain his heroine's
1 Root, p. 115.
1 78 COURTLY LOVE
fickleness. 1 Unquestionably Chaucer fell in love with her, just
as her first husband and Troilus and Diomede had all done
before him. What charmed him was undoubtedly the same
thing that charms us, her absolutely human quality ; and not
the least important element in her power to win the affections
of four men was precisely that passionate nature which caused
her to fall a ready victim to the charms of Diomede. The psy-
chology of Criseyde is all right at this point, as it is before and
afterward. If Chaucer fails to dwell upon her fickleness, it is
not because he realizes that he cannot explain it, that had
already been provided for, but because, loving her as he
does and as we do, in spite of her frailty, to dwell upon her
unfaithfulness gave him pain.
We turn to Pandarus. Of him Ebert 2 says, speaking of the
unfavorable impression which he produces : " This is, however,
somewhat softened by the fact that Chaucer makes this meta-
morphosed figure represent his own irony of the fantastical love
of knighthood, the most decided and important feature of his
work." Ebert's. statement was challenged by Kissner in the
following words: "Chaucer stand damals in seinen anschau-
ungen noch ganz auf dem standpunkt des mittelalterlichen ritter-
thums, welches in der romantischen minne seinen mittelpunkt
hatte ; er meint es mit seinem liebespaar durchaus ernst und sieht
nicht moquirend auf sie herab ; sondern behandelt ihr schicksal
mit wahrem herzenantheil. Vieles, was fiir uns den eindruck der
ironie macht, hat seinen grund in der noch ungeschulten nai'ven
ausdruckweise, oder ist, wie eben die figur des Pandarus, nur ein
unwillkiihrlicher ausfluss der schalkhaften natur des dichters." 3
Ten Brink, on the contrary, accepts Ebert's view. He says :
"Ebert traf den nagel auf den kopf, als er Pandarus den
1 Oliver Elton, Modern Language Review, Jan. 1910, p. 115.
2 Review of Sandras's "Etude sur Chaucer" Chaucer Society Publications,
1868, p. 13. 8 Kissner, p. 53.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 179
* trager der ironic des dichters der phantastischen Hebe des
ritterthums gegeniiber' nannte." l And he asks Kissner the
following questions :
1 . " Konnte der iibersetzer und schiiler Jehan de Meungs noch
auf dem standpunkt des mittelalterlichen ritterthums stehen ? "
2. " Meint nicht auch Cervantes mit seinem Don Quijote es
durchaus ernst, ja hat er nicht sein eignes herz im character
seines helden ganz anders offenbart, als Chaucer das seinige in
der darstellung des Troilus ? "
3. "1st bei wirklichen dichtern die ironie nicht immer (mehr
oder weniger) auch ein unwillkiihrlicher ausfluss ihrer schalk-
haften natur ? "
The remarks of Kissner show a curious combination of truth
and error. The statement that Chaucer at the time of writing
the Troihis held the point of view of the mediaeval knighthood
with regard to love, is evidently extreme. And ten Brink's
doubt with regard to this as shown in his first question is quite
natural and reasonable. But of the truth of Kissner's statement
which immediately follows, there can be, I think, no doubt ; the
lovers had the poet's sympathy throughout, and he certainly
expected both Troilus and Criseyde to have the sympathies of
the reader. Of course, the implication in Kissner's statement,
that inasmuch as the poet treated his lovers sympathetically, he
could not therefore have satirized what they stood for, is errone-
ous, as ten Brink's second question shows. But I am inclined
to feel that Kissner is not so far wrong in saying that much that
appears to be irony is only the poet's humor. And while we may
accept ten Brink's statement that all irony in true poets is more
or less an involuntary outflow of their humorous nature, it would
be illogical to assume, therefore, that all humor is ironical.
If Kissner makes an unwarranted assumption as the basis of
his argument, Ebert, and after him ten Brink, is equally at
1 Studien, p. 72.
I8d COURTLY LOVE
fault. The statement made by the former that Chaucer makes
Pandarus represent his own ironical mood toward chivalrous love
is entirely gratuitous. And on this assertion ten Brink bases his
argument. Moreover, the case of Cervantes and Don Quixote,
while it serves well to rebut Kissner's statement, is hardly a
parallel to Chaucer's case. Chivalry in Cervantes' day bore a
very different relation to the life of the time from that which
chivalrous love bore to the life of Chaucer's time ; at least, to
that particular phase of the life with which Chaucer was most
intimately associated. Chivalry, when Don Quixote was written,
was on its last legs ; it had been practically dead for a century
or more. On the other hand, love was a very vital question in all
the higher circles at the time at which Chaucer wrote. From
the early feudal days, love was the ruling spirit in courtly society.
The opening lines of the Chatelain de Coucy tell us :
Amours . . . est principaument
Voie de vie honnestement.
And love-making was considered as the great business of social
life. 1 That these ideas persisted to the later times in France
is shown by the works of such writers as Machaut, Deschamps,
and Froissart, in which no suspicion of burlesque may be found.
In England at the court of Richard II, one form of entertain-
ment was the division into the orders of the Flower and the
Leaf, and the discussion of the qualities for which these em-
blems stood. All the members of this courtly group were sup-
posed to be lovers, and were designated as " servants of love." 2
The fact that Chaucer was poet to this courtly society makes
it seem highly improbable that he would deliberately set out to
satirize the thing in which his patrons were highly interested
especially in a work with which he would be particularly anxious
to please them.
1 Wright, Womankind in Western Europe > London, 1869, p. 167.
2 Kittredge, Modem Philology, I, 2.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 181
But aside from these considerations, Chaucer, as an artist, was
particularly interested, in the Troilus, in the portrayal of his
actors as real people. He presents his figures dramatically, and
their characters come out in their speech and their action. Critics
cannot with right hold as Chaucer's own views what he puts into
the mouths of the persons in the story. If this be done, where
shall the process stop ? We could just as fairly hear Chaucer
speak through Troilus, on whom much of Pandarus's cynicism
is vented, as through Pandarus himself. Criseyde expresses her-
self in a very pronounced manner to the effect that the gods are
liars and were first made by men's fear. 1 Are we to infer then
that Chaucer has in him a vein of skepticism, because this
charming woman has ? Manifestly such a process is all wrong.
But, assuming with Ebert and ten Brink that Pandarus does
voice Chaucer's own opinions, let us see what Pandarus's love
philosophy is. I shall take his expressions which bear on the
subject of love in the order in which they occur. When he
is trying to get Troilus to tell the name of the lady who has
caused all his sorrow, he argues that it will be a wise thing for
the lover to confide in some one whom he can trust (i, 98-99).
This argument recalls the courtly love doctrine as expressed in
the Romance of the Rose :
Therefore I rede thee that thou get
A felowe that can wel concele
And kepe thy counsel, and wel hele,
To whom go shewe hooly thyn herte
Bothe wele and wo, joye and smerte. 2
And in connection with this, we may observe Pandarus's argu-
ment : " Both thou and I complain of love ; in truth I am so
full of sorrow, that no more misfortune can sit on me for want
of space. If thou art not afraid that I shall beguile thee of thy
lady, tell me thy woe ; for I am he whom thou trustest most "
1 iv, 201-202. 2 Eng. Trans., 11. 2856-2860.
1 82 COURTLY LOVE
(i, 102-103). In the same connection, Pandarus urges his friend
to take some steps toward helping himself.
For this nis not, certeyn, the nexte wyse
To winnen love, as techen us the wyse,
To walwe and wepe as Niobe the quene,
Whos teres yet in marbel been y-sene.
He follows up his argument in great detail. But he makes it
very clear that he recognizes that Troilus has just cause for his
woe. As he says : " I grant well that thou endurest woe as sharp
as doth Tityrus in hell, whose stomach the vultures devour. But
I may not endure that thou persist in the unreasonable opinion
that there is no cure for thy woe " (i, 1 13). " Many a lover has
known his lady twenty years, and never kissed her" (i, 116).
Should he therefore fall into despair, or slay himself ?
Nay, nay, but ever in oon be fresh and grene
To serve and love his dere herte quene,
And thenke it is a guerdon hir to serve
A thousand-fold more than he can deserve.
This is fine courtly love doctrine ; and it is interesting to note
that it is just what Pandarus practised in his own love affairs.
Pandarus 's remarks are full of common sense ; but they are not
directed against Troilus's being woeful ; the lover was expected
to do that, and Pandarus recognized it. But his arguments are
all against his friend's doing nothing to help himself; and
Troilus, who was a good courtly lover, saw the wisdom of his
advice and decided to act upon it (i, 118).
Another point on which Pandarus is fully in accord with the
courtly ideas is his belief that love comes to one from the god
of Love, and at his whim. He says to Troilus :
Love hath beset thee wel, be of good chere.
. . . for nought but good it is
To loven wel, and in a worthy place ;
Thee oughte not to clepe it hap, but grace.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 183
Troilus has fallen in love entirely by the grace of his god, who
arbitrarily makes whom he will to love. Pandarus's advice, imme-
diately following, certainly does anything but satirize courtly
love ; for he urges Troilus to repent of his sins against the god,
and he reminds him that his most grievous sins consisted in
making fun of courtly lovers (i, 131, 132, 133). To Troilus, at
least, this advice was serious, for he acted upon it at once.
We may note, too, in this passage Pandarus's remark that
" nought but good it is to love well," as a sample of courtly phi-
losophy, which is everywhere found in the love literature. After
the lover has made a confession of his sins, Pandarus advises
Be diligent and treive, and ay ivel hyde.
Be lusty, free, persevere in thy servyse,
And al is wel, if thou werke in this wyse.
That is, he tells him to be just what the conventional courtly
lover was expected to be : diligent, loyal, secret, lusty, generous,
and faithful in his service of his lady.
Following up the counsel of Pandarus, we find that what he
says on the subject of constancy accords well with courtly ideas :
... he that parted is in every place
Is nowhere hool, as writen clerkes wyse ;
What wonder is though swich oon have no grace ?
"It is just like planting a tree and then pulling it up the next
day. No wonder it does not thrive. Therefore," he continues,
" stand fast, since the god of Love has bestowed you in a worthy
place" (i, 138-139).
When he begins to work with Criseyde, his whole argument
is based on the courtly idea that beauty is the cause of love, and
that a woman is entirely responsible for the love that her beauty
inspires ; and he strengthens his case by reminding her that
a man may be led to do desperate things because of love
1 84 COURTLY LOVE
Wo worth the faire gemme vertulees !
Wo worth that herbe also that dooth no bote !
Wo worth that beautee that is routhelees !
Wo worth that wight that tret ech under f ote !
And ye, that been of beautee crop and rote,
If ther-with-al in you ther be no routhe,
Than is it harm ye liven, by my trouthe !
Finally, when he is about to arrange the meeting between the
two lovers at the house of Deiphebus, he gives this comfort to
1 roilus : And certainly, I noot if thou it wost,
But tho that been expert in love it seye,
It is oon of the thinges that furthereth most,
A man to have a leyser for to preye,
And siker place his wo for to biwreye ;
For in good herte it moot som routhe impresse
To here and see the giltles in distresse (ii, 196).
Other passages might be cited to indicate Pandarus's love philos-
ophy, but these will suffice to show that if Chaucer intended to
use him to satirize the courtly love, he puts into the mouth of
his character strange doctrines for his purpose.
On the other hand, these doctrines are quite consistent with
Pandarus, as he is portrayed in the poem. He himself is a lover,
and a very sentimental one too. He himself tells us :
I love oon best, and that me smerteth sore ;
So ful of sorwe am I, soth for to seyne,
That certeynly no more harde grace
May sitte on me, for-why there is no space.
The author informs us,
That Pandarus, for al his wyse speche,
Felte eek his part of lovers shottes kene,
That, coude he never so wel of loving preche,
It made his he we a-day ful ofte grene ;
So shoop it, that him fil that day a tene
In love, for which in wo to bedde he wente,
And made er it was day, ful many a wente (ii, 9).
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 185
Whatever conception we may have of Pandarus, at the bottom
of it must be the fact that he is a lover. His words may be sus-
ceptible of different interpretations ; but, by his own testimony,
by that of Troilus, of Criseyde, and lastly by that of the author
himself, his sentimentality is a fact. This side of his nature is
There is another side which comes out with equal clearness,
and that is his cynicism. It is not at all an easy matter to
reconcile these two phases of his character, nor shall I attempt
to do so. This may be said, however, that if Pandarus does
make fun of lovers and their actions, and he really seems to
do so in places independent of those passages which I have
quoted to show his love philosophy, Chaucer has made of him
a splendidly human figure. For in laughing at the actions of
another and then in going straight and doing, himself, the very
things he laughed at, he behaves as many of us have often
done. Nothing could be more natural, and it is in this very
trait that much of the humor of this humorous character consists.
It should be remembered, however, that what is sometimes
called cynicism in Pandarus, is not, or at least need not be,
cynicism at all. A good example of this is found in what is
regarded as his cynical attitude toward the virtue of women. It
is clear from the story, and from Pandarus's own statements,
that he had no reason to think that every woman was so easily
accessible. Troilus says to him :
Thou coudest never in love thy-selven wisse ;
How devel maystow bringen me to blisse ?
Pandarus himself, after he has about arranged matters so as to
bring the two lovers together, says (and this time he seems to
be serious) :
Have now good night, . . .
And bid for me, sin thou art now in blisse,
That god me sende deeth or sone lisse (iii, 49).
1 86 COURTLY LOVE
And another time, when Troilus is bewailing the loss of Cri-
seyde, Pandarus remarks: "You have no right to sorrow in
this wise, since you have had all your desire.
But I, that never felte in my servyse
A frendly chere or loking of an ye,
Lat me thus wepe and wayle, til I dye " (iv, 37).
Pandarus's remark to Criseyde, with regard to his speed in
By god ... I hoppe alwey bihinde !
though spoken as a joke, was really the truth. We have already
seen the character of the love which Troilus and Criseyde felt
for each other ; and our acquaintance with Pandarus, who was
a courtly lover, does not lead us to think that his love was of a
different nature. So that Pandarus's theory that all women are
of easy virtue, if he really believed such a thing, was entirely a
theory, as far as his own lady was concerned.
The case of -another woman may also be considered, namely,
his niece Criseyde. He remarks that all women are apt to
suffer the heat of love, either celestial or natural. So far, he
has made an observation which comes near to being true. But
he continues that since Criseyde is far from being " celestial,"
it follows that she must suffer the other kind of love. From
what we have seen of Criseyde, Pandarus is quite right. So
that, if our observations with regard to the heroine are correct,
Pandarus's remarks show no cynicism at all ; but they do show
that he knew his niece well, a fact which we might infer from
the manner in which he proceeded to win her love for Troilus.
Furthermore, we should note that Pandarus often talks for
effect, "for the nones," as Chaucer tells us (iv, 62). His
genuine friendship for Troilus is one of the most noticeable
things about him ; and it really lies at the bottom of much of
his bantering talk. This is to be observed particularly in those
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 187
places where the ultra-sentimental Troilus is inclined to indulge
himself in his grief, rather than to take any steps toward help-
ing himself. For example, in the first book, Pandarus really
sees the need of arousing his friend to some kind of action.
It was a well-recognized principle in the courtly system that a
man may either die or go mad for love. The literature is full
of expressions of this idea. The author tells us that in spite of
all Pandarus 's coaxing and urging, Troilus would not reveal
the name of the lady who was causing him all this sorrow, but
lay there rolling his eyes and sighing. Pandarus really feared
lest he should fall in a frenzy, or even die ; and so he cried
" 'awake' ful wonderly and sharp," and followed it up with rather
biting words (i, 104-105). Pandarus recognizes the fact that
his friend is in a bad state, and that any talk that will arouse
him is better than to let him remain in a desperation that may
lead him to some fatal act.
He follows the same tactics in the fourth book, when he
finds Troilus in the depths over the recent decree of the Parlia-
ment. He immediately begins to propose measures which he
does not believe in himself, and, I have no doubt, which he
knows his friend will not adopt. He says : " This town is full
of ladies, and much fairer ones, too, than Criseyde. Choose
one of these for your love. * The newe love out chaceth ofte
the olde,' Zanzis tells us. It is your duty to save yourself, and
the way to do it is by choosing another love. Absence of Cri-
seyde shall drive her out of your heart" (iv, 58-61). Nothing
more uncourtly than this advice could be imagined, and Pan-
darus knew it. But it does not represent Pandarus's feelings,
for the poet tells us :
Thise wordes seyde he for the nones alle,
To helpe his freend, lest he for sorwe deyde.
For doutelees, to doon his wo to falle,
He roughte not what unthrift that he seyde (iv, 62).
1 88 COURTLY LOVE
And after Troilus has effectually answered these arguments,
and, it seems, almost quieted him for once,
. . . nathelees, thus thoughte he at the laste,
' What, parde, rather than my felawe dye,
Yet shal I som-what more un-to him seye.'
And so he starts off again in his bantering style.
But even Pandarus's patience and it has been great, we
must acknowledge is at last exhausted. And here a new side
to his character is revealed. After setting forth every argument
in favor of withholding Criseyde, he says to the lover : " Take
heart and remember that every law is broken on account of
love. Show your courage and your power ; have some mercy
on yourself, and do not let this wretched woe gnaw your heart.
Set the world, like a man, ' on six and seven.' " And then flash
out the words :
I wol myself be with thee at this dede,
Though ich and all my kin, upon a stounde
Shulle in a strete as dogges liggen dede
Thourgh-girt with many a wyd and blody wounde.
In every cas I wol a freend be founde,
And if thee list here sterven as a wrecche
Adieu, the devel spede him that it recche !
Here the valor of the man is speaking, and it is the only time
in the poem that this side of him is revealed.
It is not intended here to make an exhaustive study of this
great character delineation. The preceding paragraphs point
out the important phases of Pandarus's nature. He is first
of all a lover, and has therefore his sentimental side. He is
loyal to his friend, sparing no effort to help him and promis-
ing desperate valor if the occasion demands it. And lastly, he
is cynical ; although the foregoing remarks, if they are correct,
show that his cynicism can easily be, and sometimes has been,
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 189
As for Chaucer's irony in treating the courtly love ideas,
however certain we feel that he saw the extravagances of lovers
and the absurdity in some of their actions, we cannot say that
he satirizes that love in the Troihis. And further we have
seen, I think, that even the satire of Pandarus himself, who has
been supposed to express the poet's irony, is no more charac-
teristic than is his sentimentality ; and that the inconsistency of
the two elements in him helps to make him not only a delight-
fully humorous figure, but also, like Troilus and Criseyde, an
eminently human one.
A very interesting feature of the Troilus and Criseyde is the
author's treatment of the love divinity. The double personifica-
tion of love noted in the earlier poetry appears here also. The
deity is sometimes Cupid, sometimes Venus ; often simply
Love. In many passages the personification does not admit of
classification in categories which are exclusive ; for example,
Criseyde revolves in her mind the wisdom and " gentilnesse "
Thankinge Love he so wel hir besette.
Troilus also thanks " the heighe worthinesse of Love " that he
is Criseyde's lover. The idea of the god as a benevolent lord
in these passages might be applicable to any one of the three
conceptions of the love divinity, the classical, the ecclesiastical,
or the feudal. Similarly, the idea of service and obedience ren-
dered the god, which appears in so many passages, is not in-
consistent with either the ecclesiastical or the feudal figure. For
example, Pandarus, when he persuades Criseyde to grant Troilus
her love, swears by Minerva, by Jupiter,
And by the blisful Venus that I serve.
Criseyde speaks of Pandarus as the one
That alderfirst me broughte into servyse
Diomede assures Criseyde :
And though ye Troians with us Grekes wrothe
Han many a day be, alwey yet, pardee,
god of love in sooth, we serven bothe. . . .
Eek I am not of power for to stryve
Ayens the god of love, but him obeye
1 wol alwey.
And Troilus, who has come into such great happiness himself,
lost held every wight
But if he were in loves high servyse.
These last lines might be interpreted in the ecclesiastical sense,
as if the idea were borrowed from the Church's doctrine that
every man is in a lost condition who is not engaged in the
service of religion.
Apart from such passages in which the figure is doubtful,
there are many in the Troilus which illustrate clearly the three
conceptions of the love divinity. The classical idea appears in
the humorous description of the god's attack on the haughty
At which [i.e. at Troilus's words] the god of love gan loken rowe
Right for despyt and shoop for to ben wroken ;
He kidde anoon his bowe nas nat broken ;
For sodeynly he hit him at the fulle ;
And yet as proud a pekok can he pulle.
This delightfully fresh expression of an old conceit, the wound
inflicted in a lover's heart by Cupid's arrow, is the only case in
which the god appears with his weapons. The poet includes,
however, " daun Cupyde, the blind and winged sone " of Venus,
among those who had deigned to guide him to the end of his
The feudal conception of the divinity, always a being of
irresistible power, also appears in the Troilus. For example,
the poet, digressing for a moment, moralizes with his inimitable
humor on the foolishness of resisting Love as Troilus attempted
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 191
to do : " As ' proude Bayarde ' whose corn ' priketh him ' is
brought to endure horses' law by a lash of the long whip, so
this worthy king's son,
that now was most in pryde above,
Wex sodeynly most subjet unto love.
" Therefore," continues the author, "all ye wise, proud, and
worthy folks, beware of scorning Love,
which that so sone can
The freedom of your hertes to him thralle ;
For ever it was, and ever it shal bifalle
That Love is he that alle thing may binde. . . .
Refuseth not to Love to be bonde,
Sin, as himselven list, he may you binde.
The feudal idea of the lover as a thrall or subject of Love, which
is seen in these lines, appears also in the following, where the
poet, in an interesting and effective manner, has mixed his
metaphors, making Troilus subject to the fire of love :
In him ne deyned sparen blood royal
The fyr of love, the wher-fro god me blesse,
Ne him forbar in no degre, for al
His vertu or his excellent prowesse ;
But held him as his thral lowe in distresse,
And brende him so in sondry wise ay newe
That sixty tyme aday he loste his hewe.
But for the ecclesiastical figure Chaucer shows especial fond-
ness in the Troilus. At the very beginning of the work, after
announcing his purpose, he calls upon the Fury Tisiphone for
her help ; for, although he is a servant of those who serve the
god of Love, on account of his unfitness to love he dares not
pray to the god for speed in his task, so far is he from Love's
help in darkness. " Yet," he says,
" if this may doon gladnesse
To any lover, and his cause avayle,
Have he my thank, and myn be this travayle ! "
192 COURTLY LOVE
He then calls upon all fortunate lovers, remembering their past
sorrows, to pray for their unfortunate brethren like Troilus, that
Love may bring them in heaven " to solas " ; to pray for those
who are in despair in love and never will recover from it ; to
pray also that God may permit all those lovers whose interests
are wrongly injured by evil tongues, to leave the miseries of this
world ; finally, to pray God that he continue his favor to all
lovers who are now at ease, and send them might to please their
ladies, so that it may be honor and pleasure to love. He asks
also for their prayers in his own behalf, that he may show in his
story such pain and woe as Love's folk endure ; for he hopes
to advance the interests of his own soul by praying for Love's
servants, by writing their woes, and by being charitably disposed
toward them all, as toward his own dear brothers.
This passage is full of ecclesiastical ideas. In saying of
I that god of Loves servants serve,
Chaucer is either daringly or na'fvely paraphrasing the official
title of the Pope, used in the introductory greetings of all papal
bulls, 1 in which the Pope speaks of himself as servus servorum
Dei. The attitude of extreme humility which the poet assumes
before the god of Love is noteworthy as a parallel to the self-
abasement of many saints before the real God. He does not
even dare to pray for help on account of his unfitness to love.
In comparison with this humility, we may call to mind the atti-
tude of John the Baptist, as shown in his words : " There cometh
one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am
not worthy to stoop down and unloose " ; 2 or that of Saint Paul,
1 See Smith and Cheetham, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, under
" Briefs and Bulls." Thus the famous bull " Regimini militantis," confirming
the order of Jesuits, issued by Pope Paul III in 1540, begins : " Paulus episco-
pus, servus servorum Dei, ad perpetuam rei memoriam. Regimini militantis
2 Mark i, 7.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 193
who says of himself : "Unto me, who am less than the least of
all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach . . . the un-
searchable riches of Christ." l The self-abasement of the old
saints finds a striking and almost repulsive expression in the
lines of the modern poet :
Altho' I be the basest of mankind,
From scalp to sole one slough and crust of sin,
Unfit for earth, unfit for heaven, scarce meet
For troops of devils, mad with blasphemy,
I will not cease to grasp the hope I hold
Of saintdom, and to clamour, mourn and sob,
Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer,
Have mercy, Lord, and take away my sin.
Yet the sentiments ascribed by Tennyson to St. Simeon Stylites
are not at all exaggerated, as may be seen by comparing them
with the following lamentation of Saint Augustine, one of the
most elaborate of such self-derogatory expressions : " Quid sum
ego, qui loquor tecum ? Vae mihi, Domine, parce mihi : ego
cadaver putridum, esca vermium, vas fetidum, cibus ignium.
. . . Quid iterum ego ? Abyssus tenebrosa, terra miseriae,
films irae, vas aptum ad contumeliam, genitus per immunditiam,
vivens in miseria, moriturus in angustia. . . . Et quid sum ?
Vas sterquilinii, concha putredinis, plenus fetore et horrore :
caecus, pauper, nudus, plurimis necessitatibus subditus, ignorans
introitum et exitium meum." 2
We may compare Chaucer's statement that he is far from
Love's help in darkness with the following prayer attributed to
Saint Augustine : " O God our Father, . . . hear me, who am
trembling in this darkness, and stretch forth Thy hands unto
me ; hold forth Thy light before me ; recall me from my wan-
derings ; and Thou being my Guide, may I be restored to
1 Ephesians iii, 8.
2 Liber Soliloquiorum ; Migne, Patrologia, XL, col. 866-867.
194 COURTLY LOVE
myself and to Thee." 1 Another notable example from the same
saint is the following : " O Domini Verbum, O Deus Verbum,
. . . vae mihi misero toties obcaecato, quia tu lux, et ego sine
te ; . . . O Domine Verbum, O Deus Verbum, qui es lux per
quam facta est lux, . . . die, Domine, * Fiat lux/ ut videam
lucem et vitem tenebras. . . . Illuminare, Dominus lux mea,
illuminatio mea, illuminare huic caeco tuo qui in tenebris et in
umbra mortis sedet." 2 Such expressions from the saints of the
Church, who, oppressed with the consciousness of sin, felt that
they were in " outer darkness " away from the light of God's
countenance, seem to have been in Chaucer's mind when writing
the introductory stanzas to the Troilus.
In the last lines of the third stanza,
if this doon gladnesse
To any lover, and his cause avayle
Have he my thank, and myn be this travayle !
Chaucer applies the ecclesiastical doctrine of merit to love the
doctrine that the merit attaching to any good work may be im-
puted to the doer or to some other to whom he chooses to trans-
fer it. 3 It is interesting to note the poet's clever use in the last
1 Tileston, Prayers Ancient and Modern, New York, 1897, p. 344. See also
PP- 5775>9 2 J 3 8 196, 3 1 2 -
2 Liber Soliloquiorum ; Migne, Patrologia, XL, col. 867-868.
8 The following is St. Thomas Aquinas's statement with regard to " opera
supererogativa " ; quoting from the Vitae Patrum, he says : " quod propter
charitatem unius qui alterius fratris sui charitate ductus poenitentiam fecit pro
peccato quod non commiserat, alteri peccatum quod commiserat dimissum est "
(Migne, Patrologia, Supplement to Tertia Pars Summae Theologicae, Questio
XIII, art. ii, col. 970). This same writer says elsewhere : "All the saints intended
that whatever they did or suffered for God's sake should be profitable not only
to themselves but to the whole of the church. And he further points out
(Contra Gent., Ill, 158) that what one endures for another, being a work of
love, is more acceptable as satisfaction in God's sight than what one suffers
on one's own account, since this is a matter of necessity " ( The Catholic En-
cyclopedia, article on "Indulgences," VII, 784). Applications of the doctrine
in prayers of Chaucer's time are frequent Examples of such prayers may be
seen in the Lay Folks' Mass Book, pp. 65, 69, 78, Early English Text Society
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 195
line of a sentence addressed by Boccaccio to his mistress at the
beginning of the Filostrato, and the shift of meaning to make it
accord with the spirit of the rest of the passage and give it
a religious significance.
In the following stanzas, the poet's call for the prayers of
happy lovers in behalf of others less fortunate is phrased in
ecclesiastical language and reflects the practices of believers in
the matter of prayer. He asks for prayer in behalf of those who
are in the unhappy condition of Troilus, that they may come
to solace in heaven ; and for those who have despaired in love
and never will recover. Chaucer here seems to have in mind
the doctrine that despair damned the soul of him who gave away
to it. 1 Further, he asks the prayers of lovers for those who are
now at ease ; that is, he advises happy lovers to pray for them-
selves that God grant them perseverance in their good work
of pleasing their ladies ; for this is honor and pleasure to the
god of Love. The doctrine of perseverance was familiar to good
Catholics before Calvin put forth his celebrated Five Points.
The Church held that perseverance was the gift of God, and
could be obtained by an appeal through prayer, not to the justice
of God, but to his mercy and kindness. 2 Chaucer's line clearly
applies this idea to love.
In the passage,
For so hope I my soule best avaunce
To preye for hem that Loves servaunts be
And wryte hir wo, and live in charitee,
Publications, 1879. Note too the conclusion of the Oratio ad Erasmtim,
appended to his Life :
Non noceat facinus : mihi, me iuvet almus Erasmus.
O sacer Erasme : meritis precibusque regas me !
Horstmann, Sammlung altenglischer Legenden,
Heilbronn, 1881, p. 200.
1 Persones Tale, sect. 56.
2 " Hoc ergo (i.e. perseverance) Dei donum suppliciter emereri potest "
(Saint Augustine, Liber de Dono Perseverantiae, Cap. vi).
196 COURTLY LOVE
the poet makes use of another theological idea. Good works
held, and yet hold, an important place in the Catholic practice.
By good works the Christian merits reward from God. 1 To read
the life of a saint was an act of special merit. 2 To read the lives
of the saints was not only to keep oneself from idleness, but to
inflame oneself with the desire to imitate their virtues. For the
same reason, to write the lives of saints was a meritorious act.
Chaucer has in mind this method of acquiring merit in the lines
quoted. Later, when he wrote the Legend of Cupid's saints, he
elaborated very skilfully the same conception ; for in writing the
Legend of Good Women he atones for his sins against the god
We pass to other examples of the use of ecclesiastical ideas.
Troilus, overcome by Love, cries " with pitous voys " :
" O lord, now youres is
My spirit, which that oughte youres be.
Yow thanke I, lord, that han me brought to this."
This is the language natural for a penitent sinner to use in the
act of yielding his soul to God. It carries out the idea of the
preceding passage, that Troilus has up to this point been a trans-
gressor against the god of Love, but has been brought to see
the true light through the operation of the god upon him, as the
spirit of God works upon the heart of the sinner.
1 See Catholic Dictionary under " Merit."
2 Note the introduction to the Vita Sancti Cristofori (from MS. Cathedral,
ca. 1430) : " Here bygynnes the lyffe of the Story of Saynte Cristofore, to the
heryng or the redyng of the whilke storye langes . . . mede, & it be done with
devocione " (Horstmann, Altenglische Legenden, Neue Folge, Heilbronn, 1881,
p. 454) ; also the words of the teller of a saint's life :
And 3if 3e wille 3eve lestyng,
Se shollen here ri^t guod J>yng
Er 36 hannes wende :
Pardoun 30 mowe }>erwij> wynne
And J?e betere 3ow kepe from dedly synne,
3if 3e wille have it in mende.
Canticum de Creatione, St. 3, Samml. alteng. Leg., p. 124.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 197
Pandarus, attempting to move Criseyde to pity, invents a
prayer which he pretends to have heard Troilus utter :
" Lord ! have routhe upon my prayer,
Al have I been rebel in myn entente,
Now, mea culpa, lord! I me repente."
" O god, thou that hast in thy power the death of every wight,
hear my humble confession with favor, and send me such pen-
ance as is pleasing to thee ; but for thy goodness' sake, shield
me from despair which would separate my soul from thee."
The ideas of this passage are purely theological. Troilus uses the
regular formula employed by penitents. 1 The idea is elaborated
in his asking for penance. In the lines,
but from desesperaunce,
That may my goost departe awey fro thee,
Thou be my sheld, for thy benignitee,
Chaucer has in mind the doctrine, already referred to, that de-
spair damns the soul. Men were always falling into despair and,
hence, according to the Church, into deadly sin. The Parson
describes it as " wanhope, that is despeir of the mercy of god,
that comth somtyme of to muche outrageous sorwe, and somtyme
of to much drede : imagininge that he hath doon so much sinne
that it wol nat availlen him, though he wolde repenten him and
forsake sinne. . . . Which dampnable sinne, if that it continue
unto his ende, it is cleped sinning in the holy gost. This horrible
sinne is so perilous, that he that is despeired, ther is no felonye
ne no sinne that he douteth for to do ; as shewed wel by Judas.
Certes aboven alle sinnes thanne is this sinne most displesant to
1 Note the following words from a mediaeval Order of Mass : " Confiteor
Deo, beatae Mariae, et omnibus sanctis eius . . . quia ego peccator peccavi
nimis corde, ore, opere, omissione mea culpa, &c." (Lay Folks' Mass Book, p. 90);
also : " Confiteor Deo omnipotenti . . . quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo
et opere, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" (Prayer Book of the
Catholic Church, 1896).
1 98 COURTLY LOVE
Christ, and most adversaria." 1 Even in modern times men are
not free from the sin of falling into despair. The most pictur-
esque statement, perhaps, of the awfulness of the sin to be found
in literature has been given us by Bunyan in the story of the
encounter of Christian and Hopeful with the Giant Despair.
In the first stanzas of Antigone's song in the garden, both
the feudal and ecclesiastical figures appear. The idea of paying
tribute as a vassal to the god is seen in the lines :
O love, to whom I have and shal
Ben humble subgit, trewe in myn entente,
As I best can, to yow, lord, yeve ich al
Forever more, myn hertes lust to rente.
Antigone means that she will concentrate all the desires of her
heart on love ; in so doing, she will be but rendering to the
god of Love the service which is due him as her lord and
master. Coleridge expresses, in effect, the same idea :
All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.
And we may further compare the biblical command : "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind." 2 Though the feudal idea is clearly
present in the passage, the ecclesiastical is so closely blended
with it that it is almost impossible to separate the two. The
ecclesiastical feature is plainer perhaps in the lines immediately
following, in which the Christian idea of grace is employed :
For never yet thy grace no wight sente
So blisful cause as me, my lyf to lede
In alle joye and seurtee, out of drede.
Antigone's idea is that the god has bestowed upon her a special
grace in inclining her heart to love, and in so ordering her life
1 Persones Tale, 692-696.
2 Matthew, xxxi, 37. Cf. Luke x, 27 ; Deuteronomy vi, 5.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 199
that the object of her love is worthy. The rest of her song, in
fact, is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the god who had
her " so wel beset in love." Antigone's remarks should be in-
terpreted in connection with Pandarus's comforting philosophy,
addressed to Troilus :
And f or-thy loke of good comfort thou be ;
For certainly, the firste poynt is this
Of noble orage and wel ordeyne,
A man to have pees with him-self , y-wis ;
So oughtest thou, for nought but good it is
To loven wel, and in a worthy place ;
Thee oughte not to clepe it hap, but grace 1 (i, 128).
To Pandarus, as to Antigone, falling in love was not an accident,
but a manifestation of the special grace of the god of Love, who
had a right arbitrarily to make one fall in love with anybody ;
and, in Pandarus's opinion, Troilus ought to believe this and
thank the god for the experience. The doctrine is fully stated
in the Proem to Book III, in the lines addressed to Venus :
Ye knowe al thilke covered qualitee
Of thinges which that folk on wondren so,
Whan they can not construe how it may jo,
She loveth him, or why he loveth here ;
As why this fish, and nought that, cometh to were.
Still another interesting illustration of the application of
religious ideas to love is seen in Chaucer's use of Dante's lines
addressed to the Blessed Virgin :
Donna, sei tanto grande e tanto vali,
che qual vuol grazia ed a te non ricorre,
sua disianza vuol volar senz' ali.
La tua benignita non pur socorre
a chi domanda, ma molte fiate
liberamente al domandar precorre. 2
1 Cf. for the same expression,
Shal I clepe hit hap other grace
That broghte me ther ? Book of the Duchess ; 11. 810-811.
2 Paradiso, xxxiii, 13 ff.
200 COURTLY LOVE
The poet transfers the praise of the Virgin to Love :
Benigne Love, thou holy bond of thinges
Who so wol grace and list thee nought honouren
Lo his desyr wol flee withouten winges.
For noldestow of bountee hem socouren
That serven best and most alwey labouren
Yet were al lost, that dar I wel seyn, certeyn
But-if thy grace passed our desertes. 1
In Troilus's prayer to Venus, when he is about to go to Cri-
seyde's bed, the idea of the goddess's intercession is probably
borrowed from the worship of the Virgin as a mediator between
God and man :
And if I hadde, O Venus ful of mirthe,
Aspects badde of Mars or of Saturne,
Or thou combust or let were in my birthe
Thy fader pray al thilke harm disturne
This conception is so common in religious literature that a mere
mention of it here is sufficient. As an example of Chaucer's own
prayer for the Virgin's intercession, the following lines may be
O thou, that art so fayr and ful of grace,
Be myn advocat in that heighe place
Ther-as withouten ende is songe ' Osanne,'
Thou Christes mooder, doghter dere of Anne ! 2
After Pandarus had arranged the meeting of the two lovers
at the house of Deiphebus, he hurried home with the news to
Troilus, greeting him with the words :
now is tyme, if that thou conne,
To bere thee wel to-morwe, and al is wonne.
Now spek, now prey, now pitously compleyne ;
Lat not for nyce shame, or drede, or slouthe ;
1 Compare Chaucer's use of the same passage in the Invocacio ad Mariam
in his life of St. Cecilia (Seconds Nonnes Tale).
2 Seconde Nonnes Tale, 11. 67-70.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 2OI
Som-tyme a man mot telle his owene peyne ;
Bileve it, and she shal han on thee routhe ;
Thou shalt be saved by thy fey th, in trouthe (ii, 214, 215).
The reference is clearly to the gospel stories, such as that of the
woman who anointed the Master's feet with the precious oint-
ment, and who received His commendation : " Thy faith hath
saved thee ; go in peace." 1
On this same occasion of the meeting at the house of Deiphe-
bus, Criseyde accepted Troilus as her lover, under well-defined
conditions. Whereupon Pandarus, in his exultation, fell upon
his knees and, raising his eyes to heaven, cried :
Immortal god ! . . . that mayst nought dyen,
Cupide I mene, of this mayst glorifye ;
And Venus, thou mayst make melodye ;
With-outen hond, me semeth that in towne,
For this merveyle, I here ech belle sowne.
Pandarus's reference here to the bells ringing without hands is
an expression of an idea not uncommon in mediaeval literature.
To the simple-minded believer, the bell thus miraculously ring-
ing was God's voice of approval of something done, or of
protest against some wickedness committed or about to be
committed. We read in the ballad of " Hugh of Lincoln "
And a' the bells o merry Lincoln
Without men's hands were rung,
And a' the books o merry Lincoln
Were read without man's tongue,
And neer was such a burial
Sin Adam's days begun.
Similarly, in the romance of La Bone Florence de Rome, we
are told that on the heroine's approach to the city all the bells,
of one accord, began to ring without the help of men's hands. 2
1 Luke vii, 50. Cf. also Mark v, 34 ; x, 52 ; Luke viii, 48 ; xvii, 19.
2 On the miraculous ringing of bells see Child, English and Scottish Popular
Ballads, I, 173, 231 ; III, 235, 519 ff.
202 COURTLY LOVE
And so, to Pandarus's mind, no occasion can be more fitting
for the approval of the divine powers than that on which
Criseyde agrees to become the love of Troilus.
The most elaborate use of the ecclesiastical figure in the
poem is found in the instructions of Pandarus to Troilus after
the youth had become a servant of the god of Love. Pandarus
is surprised that such happiness has been bestowed upon Troi-
lus. He could have sworn that such favor would never fall to
one who had scorned Love and mockingly called him
Seynt Idiot, lord of thise foles alle (i, 130).
Furthermore, Troilus had scoffed at those who were devout in
the religion of Love. Pandarus therefore advises him to beat
his breast 1 and call upon the god of Love with all his heart :
Thy grace, lord ! for now I me repente
If I mis spak, for now myself I love.
Troilus obeys, and Pandarus hopes that the lover's tears of
repentance and his confession have appeased the wrath of the
god. He then instructs Troilus how to conduct himself in
order to make a good end of all this affair, and he comforts
the young neophyte :
" I thenke, sith that love, of his goodnesse,
Hath thee converted out of wikkednesse,
That thou shalt be the beste post, 2 I leve,
Of al his lay, and most his foes to-greve."
" Take, for example, these wise clerks who err most of all against
religion : when once they have been converted from their
1 Beating the breast was, of course, an outward manifestation of a peniten-
tial spirit, and the celebrant was directed to do this as part of the act of
confession and at other times in the celebration of the Mass. For examples of
such directions see Richard Rolle, Prick of Conscience, 11. 3400-3409 ; Caxton,
Book of Curtesye, 11. 73-74.
2 Unto his ordre he was a noble post.
Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, 1. 214.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 203
wicked works through the grace of God, they, more than any
others, hold Him in awe, and are the more steadfast in the new
faith for their former rebellion against it." Pandarus might
have cited as an example of a sudden conversion, such as he
mentions, that of Saint Paul, as one which would fit his obser-
vations exactly. Chaucer was probably thinking, however, of
the case of Saint Augustine, whose zeal in the orthodox religion,
after conversion from a worldly life and from the Manichean
heresy, he has told in his Confessions. A very impressive in-
stance of sudden conversion is told by Etienne de Bourbon. 1
On a certain occasion, a church was being consecrated in which
the body of Count Raoul of Crepy had been interred. It became
necessary to disentomb the body of the count, and his sepulchre
having been opened, " there appeared a monstrous toad on his
face, gnawing at it, also worms and serpents. From the sight
of horror all recoiled. The son of the said count, however, a
young man, hearing of this, approached ; and having seen the
corruption of his father's flesh and the horror of the worms,
began to think of death, and of how vain are the riches of the
world and its delights and honors. Wherefore, leaving all, he
fled, thinking he should be happy if he should become poor for
Christ." The story goes on to relate how he suffered hardships,
hunger, and poverty and sickness until he " migrated to God."
It is interesting to note that the passages quoted to illustrate
the different conceptions of the love deity are almost all
Chaucer's own. With the exception of the lines borrowed from
Dante's Paradise, in only one of those passages which show the
ecclesiastical idea is the language suggested by the Italian
original. Chaucer's lines,
O lord, now youres is
My spirit which that oughte youres be,
1 Anecdotes, Historiques, Legendes et Apologues, ed. A. Lecoy de la Marche,
Paris, 1876, p. 66. Professor Kittredge calls my attention to this anecdote.
204 COURTLY LOVE
are taken from Boccaccio's
L'anima & tua che mia essere solea. 1
In the original, the ecclesiastical figure is carried out where
Troilo prays : p erc he, se '1 mio servir punto ti piace,
Da que' ti prego impetri la salute
Dell' anima, la qual prostrata giace
Sotto i tuoi pie. 2
Chaucer here changes to the feudal idea, employing it, not to
describe the relation of the lover to the god, but to his lady :
Wherefore, lord, if my servyse or I
May lyke yow, so beth to me benigne,
For myn estat royal I here resigne
Into her hond, and with ful humble chere
Bicome hir man, as to my lady dere.
Then follows the passage already quoted, in which the power
of love is figured as a flame. Boccaccio's words are :
Non risparmiarono il sangue reale
Ne d'animo virtu ovver grandezza
Ne curaron di forza corporeale
Che in Troilo fosse, o di prodezza,
L'ardenti fiamme amorose. 8
The feudal idea of the lover's thraldom to this powerful flame,
which appears in the English poem, is Chaucer's own. In none
of the other passages cited is the poet indebted for his ideas to
anybody else. The telling use of " proude Bayard " and the
accompanying stanzas, the fictitious prayer which Pandarus
quotes to Criseyde, Antigone's song in the garden, Troilus's
prayer to Venus, the stanzas in which Pandarus plays the high-
priest of love and listens to Troilus's confession, are all the
product of Chaucer's imagination. The raciness and fresh humor
of these passages illustrate one of the distinctive qualities of the
1 Filostrato, i, St. 38. 2 Ibid., st. 39. 3 Ibid., st. 40.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 205
English poet's work, and the passages themselves furnish ex-
amples of his peculiar skill in the use of language to portray
the passion of love.
In connection with Chaucer's references to the love deity two
other passages must be noted. The first is the song which
Troilus sings in praise of Love while in the garden with
Pandarus. The poet here paraphrases one of the Metres of the
Consolation of Philosophy}- The general idea of the passage
is that all concord and harmony existing in the material universe
is but a manifestation of the power of love ; and that if love
ceased to operate, all things which now work together in har-
mony would be reduced to chaos. Love holds the seas in
bounds and controls the movements of the heavenly bodies.
This is the same Love
that with an holsom alliaunce
Halt peples joyned, as him list hem gye,
Love, that knetteth lawe of companye,
And couples doth in vertu for to dwelle (iii, 250).
The term '"love" is here clearly used to designate the phe-
nomenon of attraction, which must have been perfectly well
known in the Middle Ages ; and this attraction is identified with
the feeling which, either in the form of friendship or in the grosser
form of physical passion, draws people to each other.
Boethius derived the philosophy which Chaucer has here made
use of, from Plato. In a passage of the Timaeus, the harmony
existing in the world is explained as a manifestation of the
spirit of friendship : " And for these reasons, and out of such
elements, which are in number four, the body of the world was
created, and it was harmonized by proportion, and therefore has
the spirit of friendship ; and having been reconciled to itself,
it was indissoluble by the hand of any other than the framer." 2
1 Bk. iii, metre viii.
2 The Dialogues of Plato, trans. Jowett, New York, 1892, III, 451.
206 COURTLY LOVE
The Metre of Boethius expresses more closely, however, Emped-
ocles's doctrine of the working of Love and Strife in the uni-
verse ; and the Latin poet may have had in mind some such
passage as the following, in which the philosopher expressly
identifies the love which operates in the natural world as the
power of attraction, with love existing in human hearts : "At
one time, it [i.e. the Universe] grew together to be one only
out of many, at another it parted asunder so as to be many in-
stead of one ; Fire and Water and Earth and the mighty height
of Air ; dread strife, too, apart from these, of equal weight to
each, and Love among them, equal in length and breadth. Her
do thou contemplate with thy mind, nor sit with dazed eyes. It
is she that makes them have thoughts of love and work the works
of peace. They call her by the names of Joy and Aphrodite." 1
Boethius does not treat Love as a divinity, but merely personifies
the abstraction. The song of Troilus does not differ greatly from
the Latin Metre in this respect, although the general tone of the
paraphrase, as well as the line,
Al this doth Love ; ay heried be his mightes !
the second half of which is Chaucer's own, seems to indicate that
the poet identifies personal love with the indefinite force of the
philosophers, thinking of Love as a god.
In the Proem to Book III, which is the second passage to be
noted, the love divinity appears. This invocation is addressed
to Venus, goddess of Love, and is a glorification of her power
and goodness which are felt through all the universe,
In heven and helle, in erthe and salte see.
All nature, animate and inanimate, feels her influence at times ;
she it was who first moved Jove to the creative act,
Thorough which that thinges liven alle and be.
1 Earty Greek Philosophy, ed. Burnet, London, 1908, p. 242.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 207
She ennobles those who come under her influence :
Algate, hem that ye wol sette afyre,
They dredden shame, and vices they resigne ;
Ye do hem corteys be, fresshe and benigne.
She binds together in harmony kingdom and family ; she is
the 'cause of friendship, and that mysterious power which draws
people together in love emanates from her. This Proem is a
close translation from the Filostrato, being taken from the song
of Troilo, 1 which in Chaucer's work has been replaced by the
paraphrase of Boethius's Metre already mentioned. It may be
regarded as a more detailed statement of the ideas of the
Metre, the power and influence of love on humanity being
emphasized, although the same identification of love with the
phenomenon of attraction appears. We may end this consider-
ation of the love deity in the Troilus by noticing the rather re-
markable similarity between the ideas of Chaucer's Proem and
those of the first part of the celebrated " Hymn to Venus " of
the poet Lucretius :
" Mother of the Aeneadae, darling of men and gods, increase-
giving Venus, who beneath the gliding signs of heaven fillest
with thy presence the ship- carry ing sea, the corn-bearing lands,
since through thee every kind of living things is conceived, rises
up and beholds the light of the sun. Before thee, goddess, flee
the winds, the clouds of heaven ; before thee and thy advent ;
for thee earth manifold in works puts forth sweet-smelling
flowers ; for thee the levels of the sea do laugh and heaven
propitiated shines with outspread light. For soon as the vernal
aspect of day is disclosed, and the birth-favoring breath of
Favonius unbarred is blowing fresh, first the fowls of the air, O
lady, shew signs of thee and thy entering in, throughly smitten
in heart by thy power. Next the wild herds bound over the glad
1 Filostrato, Hi, st. 74-89.
208 COURTLY LOVE
pastures and swim the rapid rivers : in such wise each made
prisoner by thy charm follows thee with desire, whither thou
goest to lead it on. Yes, throughout seas and mountains and
sweeping rivers and leafy homes of birds and grassy plains,
striking fond love into the breasts of all, thou constrainest them
each after its kind to continue their races with desire." 1
The Legend of Good Women
Near the end of the Troilus and Criseyde, in a passage in
which the author shows that he is profoundly moved by the
seriousness of the story he has been writing, he beseeches all
gentle women not to be angry with him on account of Criseyde's
Ye may hir gilt in othere bokes see ;
And gladlier I wol wryten, if yow leste,
Penelopees trouthe and good Alceste. 2
Ne I say not this al-only for these men,
But most for wommen that bitraysed be
Through false folk ; god yeve hem sorwe, amen !
That with hir grete wit and subtiltee
Bitrayse yow ! and this commeveth me
To speke, and in effect yow alle I preye
Beth war of men, and herkneth what I seye ! 3
In view of the facts that in the Legend of Good Women the
poet writes of the falseness of men towards women, and that,
had he finished his work, he would not only have written of
" Penelopees trouthe," 4 but he would have crowned the Legend
1 De Rerum Natura, I, 1-20, translated by Munro.
2 Troilus, v, 254. On the significance of this passage in connection with
the Legend see ten Brink, Studien, p. 120, Skeat, Oxford Chaucer, III, xviii,
and Lowes, Pub. Mod. Lang. Assoc., XX, 820. 3 Ibid., 255.
4 Note the god of Love's words to the poet :
Thise other ladies sitting here arowe
Ben in thy balade, if thou canst them knowe . . .
Have hem now in thy Legende alle in minde,
I mene of hem that ben in thy knowinge. B-Prol., 11. 554-558.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 209
with the story of Alceste, " Kalender to any woman that wol
lover be," 1 in view of all this we may infer that the poet had
already in mind the writing of the Legend. At the least, a very
close connection between the two works is indicated. This close-
ness of connection is made clear by certain other features found
in the two works.
One of these features which is very noticeable is the attitude
which the poet assumes with regard to love. We have already
seen what this is in the Troilus. He professes to be only a serv-
ant of lovers. 2 He declares to all lovers that he does not write
this story out of his own feelings, and says :
Eek though I speke of love unfelingly,
No wonder is, for it nothing of newe is ;
A blind man can nat juggen wel in hewis. 8
He urges those who understand love to do as they please with
any words that he, out of reverence to Love, may have added to
his author's story, 4 for he speaks all his words " under correc-
cioun" of those that have feeling in love's art. 6 In another place,
he professes to be the clerk of those who serve Venus, and
begs her help in writing the joys of lovers. 6 This attitude of
Chaucer as "an outsider in the affairs of love" which has
already been noted 7 was consistently maintained by him, 8 and
1 But now I charge thee, upon thy lyf,
That in thy Legend thou make of this wyf
Whan thou hast other smale ymaad before.
B-Prol. 11. 548-550 ; A-Prol. 11. 538-540.
2 Troilus, i, 3. 8 Ibid., ii, 3. 4 Ibid., iii, 190.
6 Ibid., iii, 191. 6 Ibid., iii, 6.
7 By Mr. Lowes, in his explanation of Chaucer's failure to utilize the open-
ing stanzas of the Filostrato in his Troilus, Pub. Mod. Lang. Assoc., 1904, p. 622.
8 Cf . also,
For al be that I knowe not love in dede,
Ne wot how that He quyteth folk hir hyre,
Yet happeth me ful ofte in bokes rede
Of his miracles and his cruel ire. P. of P., 11. 8-n.
210 COURTLY LOVE
he assumes it in the Prologue to the Legend. In imposing upon
him the penance of writing the Legend, Alceste says :
And thogh thee lyke not a lover be
Spek wel of love ; this penance yive I thee.
In all her defense of the poet before the god, she speaks of him
as one who was, as Chaucer calls himself, 1 the " clerk" of lovers.
The man hath served yow of his conning
And forthred wel your lawe in his making.
And the tone of the poet's own attempted defense of his conduct
is the same. Again he calls on
lovers, that can make of sentement
to help him in praising the daisy aright, and asks their forbear-
ance if he does not do it as well as they :
Sin that ye see I do hit in the honour
Of love, and eek in service of the flour,
Whom that I serve as I have wit or might.
The closeness of connection between the Troilus and the
Legend indicated by this similarity of attitude, is emphasized by
the spirit which, as an outsider, the poet exhibits. We have
already noted the almost abject humility which the writer pro-
fesses to feel at the opening of the Troilus. He is only a servant
of those who in truth serve the god of Love. His unfitness for
loving is so great that he does not even dare to pray for help in
his work ; he is in outer darkness, far from the help of the god. 2
Much the same humility, and realization of his poor standing
with the god, is displayed by the poet in the Legend. He reports
that the god of Love spoke to him :
For it were better worthy, trewely,
A werm to comen in my sight than thou. . . .
My servaunts been alle wyse and honourable.
Thou art my mortal fo, and me warreyest.
1 Troilus, iii, 6. 2 Ibid., i, 3.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WOR]
He prays God's blessing on Alceste ;
For ne hadde confort been of hir presence,
I had be deed, withouten any defence,
For drede of Loves wordes and his chere.
Indeed the idea at the basis of the whole Prologue is that the
poet has sinned against the god and must do penance for it.
We may note further, as an indication of the close connection
between the two works, what may perhaps be called a similarity
of method. We have already seen how Chaucer, in the case of
the Troilus, evinces a great fondness for using ecclesiastical
ideas and phraseology. Examples were cited of the classical
conception of the god of Love ; and a somewhat larger number
of instances in which the feudal character of the god was shown.
But the conception of the love divinity, which is by far the most
prominent, is, as we have seen, the ecclesiastical ; and the same
preference for the ideas of the church appears, not only in the
actual account of the love of Troilus and Criseyde, but also in
other passages, which have nothing to do with this story itself. 1
Now if we consider the Legend of Good Women as a whole, we
see a continuation of this method.
The ecclesiastical figure that describes human beings who
have suffered and died for love as martyrs to their religion, of
which Cupid was the divinity, needs only be mentioned. The
fact that Cupid appears with a halo, as the B-version tells us,
His gilte heer was corouned with a sonne,
In-stede of gold, for hevinesse and wighte,
makes the conception more vivid than usual. 2 The ecclesias-
tical idea is fundamental in the Legend, and the corresponding
1 An instance of the latter is the Proem to the first book, a part of which
has been cited above.
2 Professor Neilson, who has made a wide study of the Court of Love
poems, states that this is the only instance of the god's wearing a halo which
he has found (Neilson, Origins, p. 145).
212 COURTLY LOVE
conception of the love deity is therefore the prevailing one
in the Prologue, The god is given his classical equipment of
wings 1 and fiery darts but, as we have noted, this is not in-
consistent with the ecclesiastical figure. The references which
Alcestis makes to envious tattlers and flatterers in the court of
the god, and her argument that a king or a lord should be just
to high and low, and especially should " han of pore folk com-
passioun," 2 reflect the feudal characteristics of the god. But
clearly the larger conception in the Prologue is the ecclesiastical.
The charge against the poet is that he was guilty of spreading
heresy against the religion of the god, in translating the Ro-
mance of the Rose* and of encouraging schism. 4 The god
refers to Criseyde's faithlessness as " wickkednesse " 5 and de-
mands of the poet why he could not just as well have " seyd
goodnesse of wemen." 6 He swears by " Saint Venus " that
although the poet has renounced the religion of love, he shall
repent it. 7 Alcestis pleads that he has furthered the god's
" lawe " with his poetry, 8 and she asks the god " right of [his]
grace " not to hurt the poet. Later, when she bids the culprit
leave off his arguing, she states
Thou hast thy grace, and hold thee right ther-to.
She follows this declaration by imposing upon him for his tres-
pass the penance of spending the greater part of his life
In making of a glorious Legende
Of Code Wemen, maidens and wyves
. That were trewe in loving al hir lyves.
There is yet one detail, which is a part of this large use by
Chaucer of ecclesiastical ideas in the Troilus and the Legend,
and which is significant as regards the connection of the two
1 A. 142-169. 2 A. 376; B. 390. 3 A. 256; B. 330.
4 And (thou) makest wyse folk fro me with draw (A. 257 ; B. 331).
6 A. 209. 6 A. 268-269. 7 A. 313-316; B. 336-340. 8 A. 399.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 213
poems. Near the end of the Proem to Book I of the Troihis
Chaucer, after admitting his own unworthiness to be a lover and
calling for the prayers of various kinds of lovers in behalf of
their less fortunate brethren, says :
For so hope I my soule best avaunce,
To preye for hem that Loves servaunts be,
And wryte hir wo, and live in charitee,
And for to have of hem compassioun
As though I were hir owene brother dere. 1
The poet, in the spirit of humility which characterizes this whole
Proem, declares that he hopes to advance the interests of his
own soul by doing a work which has merit attached to it, and
this work is to write the woes of Love's servants. Of course,
the statement is made primarily with reference to the Troilus,
which he is just beginning. But when we remember that the
writing of a saint's life was an act of peculiar merit, and when
we consider that that is precisely what he is doing in the Legend,
except that he is writing of Cupid's saints, the connection be-
tween the statement and the Legend seems inevitable ; so clear
is it that one might almost feel confident that the statement
suggested to the poet the plan of the Legend itself.
We have noted in the preceding pages instances in which
Church ideas were used for secular purposes, particularly in
the love literature. The Concile de Remiremont affords an
early example of this. 2 In Li Fab lei the feature of the tomb,
over which the birds were singing for the soul of the lover
buried there, is another case in point, as is the funeral of the
young man who had died in the service of Love in Venus la
Deesse. Examples have also been cited from Andreas Capel-
lanus, in his use of the Paradise and Purgatory of lovers ; and
traces of the use of ecclesiastical ideas were pointed out in the
Romance of the Rose. Perhaps the most elaborate employment
1 Troilus, i, 7, 8. 2 See p. 18, above.
214 COURTLY LOVE
of such ideas for setting forth a story of love is to be found in
La Messe des Oiseaus, written by Jean de Conde. 1 This story
relates the author's dream, in which he saw in a beautiful
meadow a court presided over by Venus, attended by numerous
birds. Before proceeding to the work of administering justice,
she orders the nightingale to sing mass. Here the feudal char-
acter of the story changes to the ecclesiastical. The service
which is sung by the birds is an elaborate parody of the service
of the Mass as celebrated by the Church. The Confession, the
Introit, the Litany, the Gloria, the Collect, the Epistle, the
Alleluia, the Gospels, the Creed, the Offertory, all follow in
due order. A sermon on the virtues of Obedience, Patience,
Loyalty, and Hope in lovers is delivered by the parrot, after
which absolution is granted. The Sanctus is sung ; the Pater-
noster and the Agnus Dei follow, and the service in which the
bird congregation have participated closes with the Collect, the
Ite miss a est, and the Benediction. After the service the poet
proceeds with the story of the feast of lovers, followed by an
account of the judgment rendered by the goddess in the com-
plaint made by the white canonesses against the gray nuns.
Other less elaborate uses of the ecclesiastical phraseology
for the language of love could be pointed out. 2 Those here
noted are sufficient to show that in equating the worship of
God with the worship of Love Chaucer was following an old
literary tradition. Such a process of equating would find many
different manners of expression. The particular form which
the poet here uses we may assume is original with him, and
possibly it grows out of the passage in the Proem to Book I
of the Troilus.
1 Dits et Contes, ed. A. Scheler, Brussels, 1866, III, i66ff.
2 For a discussion of this feature of the love literature of the period, see
Neilson, Origins, pp. 220-226. It may be said that no other author handled
these ideas so cleverly or in so masterly a fashion as Chaucer, with whom the
device was a great favorite.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 215
Notwithstanding the fact that Chaucer was thus following in
the Legend a well-defined plan based on the mediaeval ecclesi-
astical ideas, we are struck at once with what appears to be the
unsuitableness of some of the individual legends to the plan
adopted. This may possibly be explained by conjecturing that
Chaucer did not write all the legends with such a series in
mind, but that some of them were written before he conceived
the general plan, and were utilized by him afterward. At the
same time, even if this conjecture be correct, the Legend, as we
have it, is as the poet left it, and the separate stories as they
stand he regarded as suitable for
a glorious Legende
Of Code Wommen.
The difficulty in understanding Chaucer's use of these stories
is, I believe, apparent rather than real. At any rate, it is easy
to see how the poet's mind was working. The unfitness of cer-
tain of the women for the Legend appears the greater to us,
because we do not easily forget our habitual way of regarding
them, and do not, therefore, look at them as Chaucer wished us
to do in this particular poem. For it is clear that the poet has
adopted a definite mode of procedure in treating the stories ;
and this is nowhere more evident than in the very one of all the
legends which seems to us the least adapted to his purpose, the
story of Cleopatra.
Certainly, as we know her history, Cleopatra is a strange ex-
ample of those that were true in loving all their lives. Are we
to infer that the poet did not know the true account of her life,
and the scenes which he here describes ? He himself assures
us that the tale as he tells it is " storial truth, hit is no fable."
Or shall we say that his sources misled him, or that he only
vaguely remembered what he had read ? 1 Thus far scholars have
1 As Professor Lounsbury intimates, Studies, II, 186.
216 COURTLY LOVE
found no sources which will account for the version of the story
which Chaucer gives. Or yet again, shall we say that the poet
took liberties with the facts in order to meet the exigencies of his
Legend, a license which is allowable in any writer of fiction ?
So long as the truth is not known, the reader is free to choose
whichever of these alternatives pleases him best ; and the last
of the three will be, perhaps, the easiest to accept. For it is clear
that, as we have the story, the poet has intended to make* and
has succeeded in making, the Egyptian queen a martyr to her
love. As he says :
And she hir deeth receyveth, with good chere,
For love of Antony, that was hir so dere.
Professor Lounsbury remarks on this point, 1 " Even in the story
as told by Chaucer, Antony is not only the more in earnest of
the two, he is much more of a martyr." I cannot at all agree
with this statement. To me Cleopatra cuts the better figure
throughout. It should be remembered that to tell the story of
women who were true in love was only part of the duty imposed
upon the poet by the good Alceste; he must also
telle of false men that hem bitrayen ;
and although he recognizes the worth of Antony as a lover, his
" persone," " gentilesse," " discrecioun," and " hardinesse," the
effort to make the hero appear at a disadvantage, however slight,
as a lover, is quite as apparent as the desire to exalt the heroine.
He very carefully inserts near the beginning the detail that
Antony had already been false in love :
And over al this, the suster of Cesar,
He lafte hir falsly, er that she was war,
And wolde algates han another wyf.
The insertion of this detail is especially significant, if we as-
sume that the poet was familiar with the history of Antony's and
1 Studies, II, 185.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 217
Cleopatra's lives. To include this point from Antony's life, and
to omit the unsavory love experiences of his heroine previous
to her affair with Antony, must have been part of a well-
defined purpose of the poet to make the lady appear in the
Furthermore, the death of Antony is not at all that of a
martyr to love. The cause of his suicide, as Chaucer tells us,
was despair at the thought of having lost his " worshipe " in the
day's fight. Here again if Chaucer really knew the facts of
history in the case of the battle here described, his purpose in
suppressing the detail of Antony's flight becomes clear. To
give up honor and everything for love, as Antony did, would
be the part of a martyr. It seems clear that in omitting the
detail, if he really knew it, Chaucer has intended to reserve this
great honor of sacrificing all for love to his heroine. At any rate,
as he tells the story, this is reserved for her ; and in so doing,
the poet makes it stand out as boldly as he can. Of the one
hundred and twenty-six lines contained in this Legend, forty-
one that is, almost one third are devoted to the death of the
love-stricken queen. Nor do we find in the account of the
queen's sacrifice anything suggestive of lightness or frivolity.
Furthermore, if we allow ourselves to forget the true character
of the queen which we learn from history, it is possible for us to
feel the pathos of the tale as Chaucer tells it, particularly of
that part in which Cleopatra addresses her lover, while preparing
The introduction to this scene is noteworthy, when considered
in relation to the general plan of the Legend. The poet says :
11 Ye men, who are always falsely swearing that you shall die, if
your ladies be angry, listen and I will tell you of a woman who
really did what you pretend to do." Both in this and in the
humorous lines with which he concludes his story the poet
keeps before us his purpose in the Legend, to exalt the
218 COURTLY LOVE
constancy of women in love and to deprecate the falseness and
fickleness of men.
In view of these facts, I do not see how we can say with Pro-
fessor Lounsbury that in Chaucer's tale Antony is more of a
martyr and more in earnest than Cleopatra ; much less can we
say with a recent writer that the story as Chaucer tells it is
ironical, a travesty in which the poet satirizes the inconstancy
of women. 1
The conjecture that Chaucer deliberately changed the appear-
ance of the historical facts in the Cleopatra will seem to do less
violence to the truth when we consider that he has consistently
manipulated his sources to suit the needs of his Legend in the
accounts of the other women. 2 Not all of them, however, demand
that such liberties be taken as in the Cleopatra. For example,
in the classic story of Pyramus and Thisbe, Chaucer found ma-
terial particularly well suited to his purposes. The object ever
to be kept before him was to tell of women who were true in
loving all their lives, and who, if need were, willingly and gladly
suffered death on account of their love. In Thisbe he found
just such a woman, and her story was already made for him in
the works of his favorite author Ovid. Accordingly we have in
Chaucer's version, on the whole, a faithful reproduction of the
Latin narrative. Yet there are some changes, the purpose of
which is unmistakably to make the tale fit in better with the plan
of the Legend. Note, for example, the interpolations which our
poet makes in Ovid's version. The words
Callida per tenebras . . . Thisbe
Egreditur fallitque suos, 3
1 H. C. Goddard, "Chaucer's Legend of Good Women," Journal of English
Philology, VII, 87 ff., and VIII, 47 ff. See also Professor Lowes's reply in the
same periodical, VIII, 513 ff.
2 For the sources of the legends see Skeat, Works, III, xxxiv-xl ; Bech,
Anglia, V, 313-382.
3 Metamorphoses, iv, 93-94.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 219
Chaucer interprets thus :
For alle her f riendes for to save her trouthe
She hath forsake.
And then he remarks :
and that is routhe
That ever woman wolde be so trewe
To trusten man, but she the bet him knewe !
The object of this observation is, of course, to keep before the
mind of the reader the proposition at the basis of the Legend:
that women are for the most part true in love ; that they will
usually go to greater lengths than men to remain true ; and that
many will suffer death rather than be untrue.
To emphasize this thought, Chaucer has made one other very
noticeable change in the Latin poem. This is the omission of
all reference to the mulberry tree, which has a rather prominent
place in Ovid's account. In omitting this, he has not only greatly
improved the story as a story, but he has got rid of material which
for his purpose is irrelevant. Accordingly, where in the Latin
Thisbe addresses the tree, Chaucer has the opportunity to make
her speak these words :
And rightwis god to every lover sende,
That loveth trewely, more prosperitee
Than ever hadde Piramus and Thisbe !
And lat no gentil woman her assure
To putten her in swich an aventure.
But god forbede but a woman can
Been as trewe and loving as a man !
And, for my part, I shal anoon it kythe ;
whereupon she stabs herself.
The story of Pyramus and Thisbe offers some difficulty,
however, happy illustration of woman's loyalty as it is. For, as
we have noted several times already, part of the poet's purpose
in the Legend was to show man's unfaithfulness in love ; yet,
220 COURTLY LOVE
Pyramus is quite as true as Thisbe herself. Chaucer slyly
apologizes for having told the tale at all :
Of trewe men I finde but fewe mo
In alle my bokes, save this Piramus,
And therfor have I spoken of him thus.
For hit is deyntee to us men to finde
A man that can in love be trewe and kinde.
Heer may ye seen, what lover so he be,
A woman dar and can as wel as he.
Of course this apology in reality strengthens the poet's case ; for
here, as usual, the exception proves the rule.
Yet it is quite clear that Chaucer is not content with such
proof. We have already seen, in the legend of Cleopatra, how
the heroine was allowed the centre of the stage ; the same is
true in the account of Pyramus and Thisbe. Pyramus is given
enough prominence to make perfectly clear the part he enacted
in this tragedy of love. Yet, as the story is here told, what is
said of the hero is evidently designed to bring into greater relief
the part played by Thisbe. This favor shown the heroine by the
poet is all the more noticeable when the version is compared with
Ovid's ; for in the latter greater prominence is given to neither
character; it is the unusual love of the two, and the unhappy
end to which their love brought them, which interests the
Latin poet, and which he makes the theme of his story.
The story of Dido furnishes Chaucer with material really
better suited to his purpose than the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe.
Dido is an actual example of a woman who sacrificed all for love ;
Aeneas, Chaucer uses as an example of the false lover. It is
in the latter respect that the poet departs from his source ; for
it is very clear that Virgil exonerates Aeneas from any blame
for his treachery to the queen, and considers the command of
Mercury as sufficient excuse for his forsaking her. As the hero
of the epic, Aeneas is made to appear in the most favorable
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 221
light. Not so in the version of Chaucer, who gives all his sym-
pathy to the queen, and makes the Trojan maliciously false.
A successful carrying out of the purpose in the individual
legends requires a strongly pathetic element in them. Accord-
ingly, as we have seen in the case of the Cleopatra and Tkisbe,
the poet spares no pains to make them effective in this respect.
The same is true of the Dido. One means of gaining this
effect is a close attention to details in the earlier part of the
story. Care is taken to show the depths to which Fate had re-
duced the hero, and the magnificence to which he was raised
by the generosity of the queen.
This Eneas is come to Paradys
Out of the swolow of helle, and thus in joye
Remembreth him of his estat in Troye.
Then follows a long list of the presents the queen had
made Aeneas. All this helps to emphasize the treachery of
the Trojan, and to increase the pathos of the latter part of
Another means the poet employs for the purpose of pathos
is the apostrophe to women who trust themselves to men.
O sely womman, ful of innocence,
Ful of pitee, of trouthe, and conscience,
What maketh yow to men to trusten so ?
Have ye swich routhe upon hir feined wo,
And han swiche olde ensamples yow beforn ?
See ye nat alle, how they been for-sworn ?
Wher see ye oon, that he ne hath laft his leef,
Or been unkinde, or doon hir som mischeef,
Or pilled her, or bosted of his dede ?
This utterance, while it is, I believe, the sincere expression of
the poet's feelings, as were the similar utterances in the House
of Fame version, has its artistic value, and plays its part in
heightening the pathetic effect of the tale.
222 COURTLY LOVE
Yet another means employed for this purpose is the speech
of Dido near the end. This speech, as was the case in the House
of Fame, is different in spirit from Virgil's. In the Latin, the
queen calls down curses upon the departing Aeneas :
I, sequere Italiam ventis, pete regna per undas.
Spero equidem mediis, si quid pia numina possunt,
Supplicia hausurum scopulis et nomine Dido
Saepe vocaturum. Sequar atris ignibus absens
Et, cum frigida mors anima seduxerit artus,
Omnibus umbra locis adero. Dabis, improbe, poenas.
Audiam et haec manis veniet mihi fama sub imos. 1
In Chaucer's poem, anything harsh is omitted from the queen's
speech, and only her tender and pathetic supplications are given.
Lastly, the poet has with fine instinct seized upon the words
of Ovid to close his story :
Sic ubi fata vocant, udis abiectus in herbis
Ad vada Maeandri concinit albus olor ;
Nee quia te nostra sperem prece posse moveri,
Adloquor (adverso movimus ista deo),
Sed merita et famam corpusque animumque pudicum
Cum male perdiderim, perdere verba levest.
Certus es ire tamen miseramque relinquere Didon,
Atque idem venti vela fidemque f erent ? 2
The pathos of these lines in the original is unmistakable ; as
rendered by Chaucer, they add distinctly to the pathetic effect
of his poem.
In the legend of Hypsipyle and Medea, Chaucer is con-
cerned more with making known the treachery of Jason than
with showing the unhappy- plight of the two women. True to
his purpose, he devotes the greater part of his poem to the
lover, painting him as all that a lover should be, except for
want of truth and loyalty, and showing what a villain he was
"with feyning and with every sotil dede." He prefaces his
1 Aeneid, iv, 381-387. 2 Heroides, vii, 3-10.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 223
narrative with one of those expressions, frequent in the legends,
in which he laments the faithlessness of men. After his chal-
lenge to the " rote of false lovers, duk Jasoun," and his threat
to publish his treachery, he remarks :
But certes, hit is bothe routhe and wo
That love with false loveres 'werketh so ;
For they shul have wel better love and chere
Than he that hath aboght his love ful dere,
Or had in armes many a blody box.
For ever as tendre a capoun et the fox,
Thogh he be fals and hath the foul betrayed,
As shal the good-man that ther-f or hath payed ;
Al have he to the capoun skille and right,
The false fox wol have his part at night.
This is in the same spirit as the similar utterances noted from
time to time in the House of Fame and in the other parts of the
Legend. With this introduction, Chaucer proceeds to the tale,
following in the main the version as Guido delle Colonne gives
it in the first book of the Historia Trojana^ but omitting all of
Guide's account that is irrelevant to the love story, or that is
not necessary for a swift presentation of the events in which
the love story is set.
Chaucer does not tarry long over the account of Hypsipyle,
which is hardly more than an introduction to the tale of Medea.
It is in the latter that the poet's most interesting and significant
departures from Guide's narrative are to be seen. For example,
the long description of Medea's powers of necromancy, obviously
unsuited to a portrayal of a fond and trusting maiden, he omits,
as he does the account of how the heroine takes especial pains
to adorn herself for the feast given to Jason, although she was
naturally very fair. This action of Medea's is the signal for
1 For the references to Guido it proved convenient to use a MS. copy of
the Strassburg edition of 1494, made by Mr. G. B. Weston in Dresden in 1897
and now in the Harvard University Library.
224 COURTLY LOVE
Guide to launch out into a long diatribe against woman's incon-
stancy and lustful seeking after men, with special application of
his remarks to Medea. He tells how, as she sits at the feast
between her father and Jason, she is so overcome with love-
longing that she cannot eat nor drink : " Est enim sibi tune
cibus et potus Jasonis dulcis aspectus, quern totum clausum
gestat in corde, et in cuius amore libidinis repletus est sto-
It is in this part of Guide's story that Chaucer sees fit to
make another very interesting change. Guido, in his scathing
remarks on woman, declares : " Scimus enim mulieris animum
semper virum appetere, sicut appetit materia semper formam, et
turpe bonum. O utinam materia transiens semel in formam
posset dici suo contenta formato. Sed sicut ad formam de
forma procedere materiam notum est, sic mulieris concupiscentia
dissoluta procedere de viro ad virum utique esse creditur sine
fine, cum sit quedam profunditas sine fundo, nisi forte pudoris
labes aliqua abstinentia laudanda concluserit sub terminis hon-
estatis." These ideas Chaucer is pleased to use as follows :
As matere appetyteth forme alwey,
And from forme into forme hit passen may,
Or as a welle that were botomless,
Right so can fals Jasoun have no pees.
For, to desyren, through his appetyt,
To doon with gentil wommen his delyt,
This is his lust and his felicitee. 1
The manner in which Chaucer has here applied to Jason in
particular Guido's words directed against women in general,
illustrates his whole treatment of the story as told by Guido.
For, according to the latter, the entire disgrace in this affair of
Jason and Medea attaches to Medea. Chaucer not only paints
1 The connection between the first two lines of this passage and Guido's
words has already been noted by Bech, Anglia, V, 329-330.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 225
the man as black as possible, but he dwells upon those qualities
in him which were likely to make him attractive to the feminine
Now was Jaoun a semely man withalle,
And lyk a lord, and had a greet renoun,
And of his loke as real as leoun,
And goodly of his speche, and famulere,
And coude of love al craft and art plenere
Withoute boke, with everich observaunce.
The impression the poet wishes to make is that such a man no
woman could resist ; hence he says,
And, as fortune oghte a foul meschaunce,
She wex enamoured upon this man.
On the other hand, in Guido all the advances come from Medea.
The pathetic element in neither the Hypsipyle nor the Medea
is as large as in the other legends already considered ; yet there
are in both pathetic passages which are very effective. In the
former, for instance, there is the letter which Hypsipyle sent
to Jason ; for the substance of this the poet is indebted, of
course, to Ovid's sixth Epistle. There is something very touch-
ing, too, in the simple statement with which the story ends :
And trew to Jason was she al her lyf,
And ever kepte her chast, as for his wyf ;
Ne never had she joye at her herte,
But dyed, for his love, of sorwes smerte.
In the Medea a fine effect is gained by using the truly pathetic
lines of Ovid,
Cur mihi plus aequo flavi placuere capilli
Et decor et linguae gratia ficta tuae ?
and Chaucer has made the original still more moving by his fine
translation : ,, T1 , , ,
Why lyked me thy yelow heer to see
More then the boundes of myn honestee,
Why lyked me thy youthe and thy fairnesse,
And of thy tonge the infinit graciousnesse ?
226 COURTLY LOVE
In the legend of Lucretia we have a tale of a somewhat
different nature from those already considered ; different in
that it does not deal with love at all. But it fits well enough into
the general plan. In the Prologue to the Legend, the petulant
god had blamed the poet for not telling in his writings, instead
of the stories of Criseyde and faithless women, the stories of
those heathen women who were glad to suffer tortures and even
death, rather than lose their fair name and be untrue. Lucretia
was such a woman ; and we find her mentioned in the Balade
which included the names of women noted for their faithfulness.
The poet's purpose in telling of her is, as he says at the beginning,
to preise and drawen to memorie
The verray wyf , the verray trewe Lucresse.
And at the end he informs us,
I telle hit, for she was of love so trewe,
Ne in her wille she chaunged for no newe.
But this latter, if we consider the story alone, is a bit far-
fetched, and Chaucer's real application of the tale is rather to
be found in the lines following :
And for the stable herte, sad and kinde,
That these women men may alday finde ; . . .
And as of men, loketh which tirannye
They doon alday ; assay hem who so liste,
The trewest is ful brotel for to triste.
That is, using Lucretia as a particular example, he places her
faithfulness over against the fickleness and falseness of men in
Of 'the poet's manner of treating his sources in carrying out
his purpose, there is little to say. He professes to follow Ovid
and Livy ; in reality, he adheres closely to Ovid's account, 1 and
finds it necessary to depart very little from the Latin version.
In accordance with his usual practice, however, he introduces
1 Skeat, Oxford Chaucer, iii, 330.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 227
some observations of his own, which serve to make the story
more suitable to the Legend. To emphasize his purpose, he
relates how Lucretia fainted for fear of shame and death ; and
then he adds the apostrophe to Tarquin :
Tarquinius, that art a kinges eyr,
And sholdest, as by linage and by right,
Boon as a lord and as a verray knight,
Why hastow doon dispyt to chivalrye ?
Why hastow doon this lady vilanye?
Alas ! of thee this was a vileins dede.
These lines, which " breathe the spirit of chivalry," 1 are doubt-
less, as others already noted, to be taken as the sincere senti-
ment of the poet himself. One characteristic touch in the story
is interesting to note. Ovid in telling of Lucretia's discretion,
even after stabbing herself, says :
" Tune quoque, iam moriens, ne non procumbat honeste,
Respicit. Haec etiam cura cadentis erat. 2
Chaucer makes the matter more concrete in the lines :
And as she fel adoun, she caste her look,
And of her clothes yit she hede took ;
For in her falling yit she hadde care
Lest that her feet or swiche thing lay bare ;
So wel she loved clennesse and eek trouthe.
Another observation which the poet volunteers is found in
Ne never was ther king in Rome toun
Sin thilke day ; and she was holden there
A seint, and ever her day y-halwed dere
As in hir lawe.
Professor Skeat remarks on this : " This canonization of Lu-
cretia is strikingly mediaeval. It was evidently suggested by
the fact that Ovid gives her story under a particular date, so
1 Skeat, Oxford Chaucer, iii, 333. 2 Ovid, Fasti, ii, 11. 833-834.
228 COURTLY LOVE
that she seemed to have her own day, like a saint." The in-
teresting feature of Chaucer's remark, from the point of view
of the present study, is the manner in which it fits in with the
use of the religious convention in the Legend as a whole.
Of the pathos of the tale, little need be said. In Ovid's
version, the story throughout is pathetically told. Chaucer's
rendering, though itself not lacking, certainly adds nothing to
the Latin in this respect.
It seems superfluous even to consider Chaucer's purpose in
the Ariadne. He himself tells us that he writes
to clepe agein unto memorie
Of Theseus the grete untrouthe of love.
With this purpose in view, he swiftly narrates the events up
to the story of Theseus and Ariadne in such a manner as to.
make Theseus's treachery as black and Ariadne's plight as
pathetic as possible. The part played by the heroine in rescu-
ing Theseus is therefore given prominence. In connection with
this, the poet's words are interesting :
Wei maystow wepe, O woful Theseus,
That art a kinges sone, and dampned thus.
Me thinketh this, that thou were depe y-holde
To whom that saved thee fro cares colde !
And now, if any woman helpe thee,
Wei oughtestow her servant for to be,
And been her trewe lover yeer by yere !
These words, taken in connection with Theseus's false love-
making further on, greatly increase the irony of the situation.
In the latter part of the story, Chaucer chooses such incidents
from Ovid's tenth Epistle as will heighten the pathetic effect.
The desertion of the sleeping heroine, her groping in the bed,
her walking barefoot on the sands, her display of the kerchief
on the pole, her swoon, her kissing the footprints of the treach-
erous lover, and lastly her words to the bed, which formerly
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 229
held two lovers, but which now has only one, all these arouse
our sympathy. Throughout all, the poet never lets us forget
the baseness of the betrayer.
Hadde he nat sinne, that her thus begylde?
he asks ; and again he remarks :
Me list no more to speke of him, parde ;
Thise false lovers, poison be hir bane !
But I wol turne again to Adriane. . . .
Alias ! for thee my herte hath now pite !
His plan here again is what we have seen it to be in the pre-
ceding legends : to engage our sympathies for the woman, and
to make the* man appear in as bad a light as possible.
If the tale of Lucretia was. a little out of the poet's province
in writing the Legend, the Philomela was still more so. This
is no story of love ; nor does the lady, as did Lucretia, show
any nobility of action as a result of her shame. It is simply the
account of man's baseness in seeking the gratification of his sen-
sual nature. It really lies entirely outside the scope of Chaucer's
plan in the Legend. He undoubtedly feels this ; for the con-
clusion is forced and far-fetched :
Ye may be war of men, yif that yow liste.
For al be that he wol nat, for his shame,
Doon so as Tereus, to lese his name,
Ne serve yow as a mordrour or a knave,
Ful litel whyle shul ye trewe him have,
That wol I seyn, al were he now my brother,
But hit so be that he may have non other.
The tone of this is indicative of the poet's purpose : to paint
the blackness of Tereus's deed. To this purpose he adheres
strictly. The first sixteen lines of the poem are a denunciation
of Tereus ; and at times, the poet stops in the narrative to
express his abhorrence of the villain ; for example, in the line :
For I am wery of him for to telle.
230 COURTLY LOVE
Contrary to his usual practice in the legends, Chaucer de-
votes but little space, comparatively, to his heroine. The effort
on his part to heighten the pathetic effect of the tale by dwell-
ing on the woman's situation is far less conspicuous than in the
legends so far considered. Indeed, the pathos attaching to
Progne's sorrow is almost as strong as that of Philomela's plight.
Chaucer, in following his author Ovid, 1 succeeds in telling an
interesting and effective story. But considered in its relation to
the general purpose of the Legend, the tale must, I think, be
accounted one of the least appropriate of all.
In the last two stories of the series the poet has made a
happier choice. The Phyllis is of the same kind as several
other stories in the Legend: the Dido, the Hypsipyle and
Medea, the Ariadne, in all of which the lover gains his
will by a promise of marriage, and then deserts the trusting
woman. Little need be said of the Phyllis. The method of
treatment is the same as that we have noticed in connection
with the poems just mentioned : the actions of the lover are
made to appear more despicable because of the generosity of
the heroine in raising him from the depths of misfortune to a
position in which he is prosperous and happy. The sorrow
of the woman is made more conspicuous by the addition of lyric
expressions (mostly taken from Ovid) in which she laments her
sad plight, and implores the pity of the false lover.
In the Hypermnestra we have a tale of wifely devotion, which
fits in well, as such, with the scheme of the Legend. It is diffi-
cult to see what the poet can say against the husband in this
case. Chaucer has left the poem unfinished, but he has given
us a hint of his feelings toward Lino, in the lines :
Alias ! Lino ! why art thou so unkinde ?
Why ne haddest thou remembered in thy minde
To taken her, and lad her forth with thee ?
1 Metamorphoses, vi, 424-605.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 231
In both the Phyllis and Hypermnestra the poet has succeeded
in treating the heroines with genuine pathos ; in them, as usual,
he has adhered closely to Ovid's Epistles. 1
The foregoing considerations show with sufficient clearness,
I think, that in handling the tales which make up the indi-
vidual legends, Chaucer was following a definite plan, which
was a part of the larger plan of the Legend as a whole. This
plan demanded a similar treatment for each of the separate
stories ; a treatment in which the loyalty of woman would be
exalted and the falsity of men would be decried. Anything in
his sources which would in any way emphasize either of these
features, the poet would be careful to utilize. With equal care
he would avoid any details which would tend to lessen this im-
pression of the woman's faithfulness and of the man's disloyalty.
This plan the poet studiously adhered to throughout ; 2 and
doubtless the sameness of treatment which it involved made
the whole task wearisome and led to the abandonment of the
Certainly Chaucer was in earnest in what he wrote, as far as
he went. At some time or other in his poetic career, the plan
of telling stories of women who were faithful in love doubtless
appealed to him. But at the time when the poem was put in
the form in which we have it, the love theme could have had
but little attraction for him. He had reached the high-water
mark in his treatment of love in Troilus. After such a superb
effort, anything in the nature of the Legend must have seemed
tame. Besides, the lure of a larger representation of life was
before him, in the already projected plan of the Canterbury
Tales. When the poet laid aside the Legend, he gave up for
good and all the handling of love in and for itself. Wherever
1 For the Phyllis, Heroides, ii ; for the Hypermnestra, Heroides, xiv.
2 Except, of course, in the Pyramus and Thisbe, and then he apologizes
for having to speak of the hero as he does.
232 COURTLY LOVE
the theme is found in the Canterbury Tales it is subservient to
some other purpose, and love appears only as an aspect of the
larger life with which the Tales deal.
THE CANTERBURY TALES
In the Canterbury Tales, two types of love are prominent.
One of these, the courtly love of the higher classes, we have
seen to be abundantly illustrated in Chaucer's earlier works. The
other type is found in those tales in which Chaucer in his mas-
terly fashion portrays the life of the lower classes the love of
fat fabliaux. This is solely and entirely carnal in its nature.
We have seen that the courtly love itself was often sensual ; but
along with the sensualism, there was found a refinement and
often a nobility of sentiment which went far toward lessening
the repulsive effect of the baser element. The love of the fabliaux,
on the other hand, is all grossness without any of the refinement.
With this lower type of love we shall not deal here. We shall
take the attitude, for this study, that the courtly classes of the
poet's own time would have assumed, that, although the
" hende Nicholas," January and May, and that splendid animal,
the Wyf of Bath, dignified their passion with the name of love,
they were incapable of experiencing real love, or even of com-
prehending its nature. We shall confine our discussion to what
would have been deemed love by those people for whom Chaucer
wrote ; that is, in accordance with the plan followed so far, we
shall direct our attention to the courtly love element in the
Of the company of pilgrims pictured for us in the Prologue,
two are of especial interest to us in the present study ; these
are the Knight and his son the Squire,
A lovyere and a lusty bachelere.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 233
Of the Knight it is said that he was worthy, wise, meek, and
that he loved,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisye.
These are the qualities which we have found to be requisite in
the model courtly lover back to the time of Andreas Capellanus.
The characteristics, indeed, of the knight and the lover in
mediaeval times were identical, since every knight was supposed,
when young, to be in love; and since the great majority of
lovers were knights.
The description of the Squire agrees well with our ideas of
lovers as derived from the courtly literature. He is said to be
courteous and humble. His love was so "hot" that it kept him
awake at night. He had travelled far on military expeditions
and had conducted himself well, in the hope of standing high
in his lady's favor. He was accomplished in riding, song-making,
writing, drawing, jousting, and dancing. He was merry all the
day with his singing and his " fluting."
He was as fresh as is the month of May,
and the garments he wore were a symbol of the freshness of his
It is noticeable that the Squire meets all the requirements
with regard to character, behavior, dress, and accomplishments,
which the god put before his lover in the Romance of the Rose.
As for his military expeditions, and his desire to stand well with
his lady, this, as we have seen in the preceding part of this study,
is in accord with ideas commonly held, that the young lover
must perform deeds of prowess, so that his fame may come to
his lady's ears, if he wishes to gain her favor.
Two other characters of the Prologue are brought into rela-
tion with this study by what the poet says of them ; these,
strangely enough, are the Prioress and the Monk. The Prioress
wore a brooch on which was written the motto, Amor vincit
234 COURTLY LOVE
omnia. Similarly, the Monk wore a pin, the larger end of which
was fashioned like a love-knot. Of course, neither of these char-
acters was a lover ; but the devices which they wore show the
prevalence of love ideas at this time. " Chaucer's Prioress and
Monk, whose lives were devoted to religious reflection and the
most serious engagements, and while they are actually travelling
on a pilgrimage to visit the shrine of a sainted martyr, openly
avow the universal influence of love. They exhibit on their
apparel badges entirely inconsistent with their profession, but
easily accountable for from these principles. The Prioress wears
a bracelet on which is inscribed, with a crowned A, Amor vincit
omnia. The Monk ties his hood with a true lover's knot." l
The Knight's Tale
It seems hardly necessary, after showing the large use, by
Chaucer, of conventional ideas in his erotic work, to point out
such features in the Knight's Tale. Yet, following our usual
plan, we may note such employment of the stock ideas of love
literature as the poet has here made. In so doing, we shall see
once more that Chaucer in his love stories never tried to avoid
the conventional ideas. On the contrary, he used them freely ;
but, as a poet of genius, he managed them and never allowed
them to manage him.
Love is conceived as a god whose power is absolute. No-
where may a better expression of the courtly idea of the god of
Love be found than in the words of Theseus :
The god of love, a ! benedicite,
How mighty and how great a lord is he !
Ayeins his might ther gayneth none obstacles,
He may be cleped a god for his miracles ;
For he can maken at his owne gyse
Of everich herte, as that him list devyse.
1 Warton, History of English Poetry, London, 1871, III, 3.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 235
He has shown his power on Palamon and Arcite, for he has,
Theseus says, maugree hir eyen two
Y-broght hem hider bothe for to dye ! . . .
Thus hath hir lord, the god of love, y-payed
Hir wages and hir fees for hir servyse !
Theseus himself was a servant of the god and had been " caught
ofte in his las."
Although the god appears often, Venus is prominent as a love
deity. In this capacity, she requires absolute devotion ; nothing
is of avail against her might :
wisdom ne richesse,
Beautee ne sleighte, strengthe, ne hardinesse,
Ne may with Venus holde champartye ;
For as hir list the world than may she gye.
References to Cupid with his arrows appear in the poem.
Arcite complains :
And over al this, to sleen me utterly,
Love hath his fyry dart so brenningly
Y-stiked thurgh my trewe careful herte,
That shapen was my deeth erst than my sherte.
In the description of the Temple of Venus, too, Cupid is pictured
as an attendant of Venus :
Biforn hir stood hir sone Cupido,
Upon his shuldres winges hadde he two ;
And blind he was, as it is ofte sene ;
A bowe he bar and arwes brighte and kene.
In fact, in this Temple, everything incidental to the passion of
love is pictured on the walls.
Venus in her capacity as the goddess of carnal love is referred
to in the words spoken by Palamon while praying in the Temple :
I shal for evermore,
Emforth my might, thy trewe servant be,
And holden werre alwey with chastitee.
236 COURTLY LOVE
The lady in the Knight's Tale has the characteristics, physical
and spiritual, common to ladies in the courtly poetry. Her posi-
tion with regard to her lovers is the usual one of superiority.
Arcite determines to return to Athens,
To see my lady that I love and serve.
Elsewhere he declares :
Only the sighte of hir, whom that I serve,
Though that I never hir grace may deserve,
Wolde han suffised right y-nough for me.
Similarly, Palamon is a servant of Emilia. Theseus says of him,
addressing Emilia :
That gentil Palamon, your owne knight,
That serveth yow with wille, herte, and might,
And ever hath doon, sin that ye first him knewe,
... ye shul, of your grace, upon him rewe,
And taken him for housbonde and for lord.
The attitude of the lady toward the lovers is the usual one of
indifference ; at least, it seems to be that to the lovers themselves.
Arcite, in praying to Mars, says of Emilia :
For she, that dooth me al this wo endure,
Ne reccheth never wher I sinke or flete.
And wel I woot, er she me mercy hete,
I moot with strengthe winne hir ...
The lovers themselves are portrayed in accordance with the
conventional ideas. They suffer torments and woe, and show all
the customary symptoms. The changes in mood caused in Arcite
by his love are thus described :
Whan that Arcite had . . .
. . . songen al the roundel lustily,
Into a studie he fil sodeynly,
As doon thise loveres in hir queynte geres,
Now in the croppe, now doun in the breres,
Now up, now doun, as boket in a welle.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 237
And again :
His sleep, his mete, his drink is him biraft,
That lene he wex, and drye as is a shaft.
His eyen holwe, and grisly to biholde ;
His hewe falwe, and pale as asshen colde,
And solitarie he was, and ever allone,
And wailing al the night, making his mone.
And if he herde song or instrument,
Then wolde he wepe, he mighte nat be stent. 1
The touch in the last two lines is interesting, and, so far as I
know, it is original with Chaucer. I have not met in my read-
ing with any passage in which weeping at the sound of music
was a symptom of love.
Finally, the conventional idea that love is caused by beauty
is employed. Beauty wounds the heart of the lover through his
eyes. Palamon declares :
But I was hurt right now thurgh-out myn ye
Into myn herte, that wol my bane be.
He is " stung " by the sight of Emilia's beauty :
He caste his eye upon Emelya,
And therwithal he bleynte, and cryde ' a ! '
As though he stongen were unto the herte.
Arcite has the same experience :
And with that sighte hir beautee hurte him so, ...
And with a sigh he seyde pitously :
c The f resshe beautee sleeth me sodeynly
Of hir that rometh in the yonder place ;
And, but I have hir mercy and hir grace . . .
I nam but deed.'
The instances given above are not all the examples of Chau-
cer's employment of conventional ideas in the Knight's Tale.
They will suffice, however, to show that in the framework of
1 With these symptoms may be compared the list of the pictures of sighs,
broken sleeps, etc., on the walls of the Temple of Venus.
238 COURTLY LOVE
his love story he made the same large use of these ideas that
he was accustomed to make when he wrote of love elsewhere.
Chaucer's purpose in the Knight's Tale, it is generally held,
is to show the conflict between love and friendship. Indeed,
this must have been no small part of Boccaccio's purpose in the
Teseide. But as he manages his narrative, the friendship of the
two cousins is given such prominence, is kept so constantly
before the reader as almost to make him feel the possibility of
friendship's triumph over love in the long run. Not so in
Chaucer, whose aim seems to be to show
that love ne lordshipe
Wol noght, his thonkes, have no felaweshipe.
With this end in view, the English poet has made some sig-
nificant changes in his original, the most important of which we
may note as follows :
1. He has greatly abridged Boccaccio's version of the story.
2. From certain hints in Boccaccio, he has developed the
character of Palamon, thus making an extremely effective con-
trast with the character of Arcite. 1
1 This feature of Chaucer's poem is brought out with considerable detail by
Mr. Tatlock (Chron. and Dev., Appendix C, pp. 231-232) ; and need not be
further set forth here. I agree, for the most part, with Mr. Tatlock's state-
ments. I do not think, however, that he recognizes sufficiently the prominence
given by Boccaccio to Arcite over Palamon. Mr. Tatlock remarks : " In the
Teseide, though Arcite cuts slightly the better figure, they are hardly distin-
guished, and both are valorous and honorable young knights, full of all worthy
emotions" (pp. 231-232). This, to my mind, is a little misleading. Arcite, it
seems to me, cuts decidedly the better figure throughout the tale. He is, up
to the time of his death, constantly in the limelight. Note, for instance, the
manner in which he holds the center of the stage in the combat scene ; how
he stops to take a breath, and catches a glimpse of Emily, the sight of whom
restores his vigor, and he returns to the fight, fiercer than ever (viii, 78-80).
E vie piti fiero ritornb a fedire
Che prima, si e' lo spronb il desire (viii, 80).
It seems to me, too, that Arcite has the author's sympathy throughout, much
more than Palamon. This may account, perhaps, for Boccaccio's disregard of
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 239
3. He has made Emilia almost characterless, though he pre-
sents her as a charming picture, the object of the love of the
two cousins. A recent writer says of her : " Emelye is, within
her limits, as beautiful and touching a figure as any in poetry ;
but her limits are those of a figure in a stained-glass window
compared with a portrait of Titian's." l This is quite true, and
in the portrayal of Emilia Chaucer perhaps made his greatest
change. To make this matter clear, I must give, at some length,
an outline of Boccaccio's account of his heroine.
Not until the third Canto does Emilia make her appearance.
Then we see her, a simple, innocent girl, going alone every
morning into the garden, singing songs of love to divert herself.
But, the poet assures us, she was not in love ;
A cio tirata da propria natura ;
Non che d'amore alcun fosse costretta.
It was while she was singing in the garden that she heard the
" Alas ! " of Palamon. At this, looking over her shoulder, she
turned her eyes to the window and blushed ; then arising, she
poetic justice in having Arcite see Emilia first, though Palamon finally pos-
sesses her. A passage, in which the author seems to show his sympathy for
Arcite, is that hero's soliloquy, in which he gives his reasons for expecting to
win in the fight with his cousin :
Poi potete veder ch' i' ho ragione
Di tal battaglia ; onde avremo il favore
Del forte Marte, e 'n la nostra questione
II cor mi dice i' saro vincitore.
Perocch' io volli gia con Palemone
Particepare, amando, quanta amore
Con pace, ed e' non voile ; ond' io son certo
Che degl' Iddii n' ayr6 debito merto (vii, 136).
I cannot read this passage without the feeling that the author sanctions Arcite's
words, indeed, that he puts this speech into his hero's mouth in order to
justify his taking part in a contest with his cousin. There is in this speech,
too, a hint of the petulance of Palamon's disposition, and of his jealousy. Such
hints, doubtless, Chaucer seized upon, in building up the character of Palamon,
as it is presented in the Knight's Tale.
1 Coulton, Chaucer and His England, p. 222.
240 COURTLY LOVE
went away (iii, 18). But as she went, she thought of the
" Alas " ; and although she was a young girl, too young, indeed,
for Love to claim, still she understood what the " Alas " meant;
and she was pleased with herself and counted herself beautiful.
Therefore, she adorned herself the more when she returned
into the garden (iii, 19). And so she continued to go, always
keeping her eyes on the window.
Non che a ci6 Amor la costringesse,
Ma per vedere s'altri la vedesse.
And if she saw that she was being watched, as if she were not
aware of it, she began to sing, gathering the flowers meanwhile,
and humbly and in a womanly fashion (donnescamente) she
tried to make herself pleasing to whoever saw her.
N& la recava a cio pensier d'amore
Che ella avesse, ma la vanitate
Ch& innate e alle femmine nel core
Da fare altrui veder la lor biltate (iii, 30).
The next glimpse we get of the maiden is when, Arcite being
about to leave Athens at the command of Theseus, she appears
on a balcony with her maid, and looks at the exiled hero and
feels sorry for him.
We see her again for a moment at the feast which Theseus
made shortly after Arcite, now disguised as Pentheus, took serv-
ice with him. She was invited, along with the other ladies, and
her beauty was the marvel of all ; so great was it that all said
Che veramente ell' era Citerea.
But Arcite most of all was charmed by the sight of her. And
it happened too, that Emilia recognized him, though he was
unknown to all the others (iv, 53-56). The author reminds us
later (iv, 56) that Emilia was so young that she had not felt
the sting of love when Arcite had gone. So when she saw him,
she remarked within herself, all innocently : " This is that
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 241
Arcite, whom I saw grieving. What does he here? Does he
not realize that if he should be recognized, he would have to die,
or return to prison (iv, 57) ? " Still, she was discreet and
said nothing to any one (iv, 58).
The next appearance of Emilia in the story is on the occasion
of the duel in the wood. She is riding on the hunt with the
royal party, and suddenly she comes upon the two lovers fight-
ing, and is at once known by each of them (v, 80). At first
she is so astonished that she neither goes forward nor turns
back ; she neither moves nor speaks. But after a while, com-
ing to herself, she calls some of her party and has Theseus
summoned to witness the duel (v, 81). After the strange case
has all been explained to Theseus, he addresses her : " Young
damsel, do you see what love does on your account, since you
are more beautiful than any other creature ? You ought to
consider it a sovereign honor."
Nulla rispose Emilia, ma cambiossi
Tutta nel viso, tanto vergognosi.
As they all return to the city, Emilia rides between the two
lovers, greatly to their delight, being made to do this by
Theseus (v, 104).
In the following canto, she appears only for a moment, when
she with her sister, queen Hippolita, receives graciously the
many warriors who came to Athens to fight in behalf of Pala-
mon and Arcite. They are all struck by her beauty, and are
not surprised that one of the cousins broke out of prison, and
the other, contrary to command, came back to Athens to gain
such a treasure (vi, 66, 67).
The n^xt canto tells of Emilia's preparations for the sacrifice
to Diana to whom she is devoted ; and of her prayer to the
goddess so to order things that she may remain a maiden, and
to turn the hearts of the two lovers away from her. But if her
242 COURTLY LOVE
destiny be such that she must become the wife of one, she
prays the goddess that she will send that one to her arms that
most desires her.
Che io nol so in me stessa nomare,
Tanto ciascun piacevole mi pare.
The reply to her prayer comes at once, when the goddess ap-
pears and tells her that it is already decided among the gods
that she must marry one of the two, but which one cannot now
be disclosed. The goddess then disappears and Emilia returns
home (vii, 95-109). In this scene for the first time, Emilia
is something more than a picture.
We next see the heroine as a witness of the fight. She in-
clines to neither party, but is very much troubled that she should
be the cause of all this conflict. She pathetically chides Love
and Fortune for making her the object of this strife (viii, 96).
She laments that mothers, fathers, friends, and brothers of those
in the combat will curse her, and before the altars of the gods
will call for vengeance upon her. And further, if she must be
the wife of one of the lovers, she does not know which she
would choose. Both are the same to her. The god of Love has
disposed her heart to love, but where to place her affections she
does not know (viii, 109). The heroine's perplexity and her
pathetic utterances appeal strongly to our sympathies. She is
here, for the second time, something of a character.
Palamon's misfortune in being seized by the savage horse
loses the day for him. And now suddenly we see Emilia's love
directing itself to Arcite. Knowing the conditions of the fight,
Gia d'Arcita credendo veramente
Esser 1'animo suo, senza dimoro
A lui volto, e divenne fervente
Dal? amor d'esso ; e gia per suo ristoro,
Per lui vittoria pietosa chiedea,
N piu di Palemon gia le calea.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 243
She praises his fairness and noble bearing, his prowess and
daring. Whereas the lovers appeared equal before, now they
appear entirely unequal (126). She already considers herself
espoused to Arcite, and prays the gods for her lord, looking at
him with a new desire, and praising his works above all (127).
E sol d'Arcita 1'immagine prende,
E se lascia pigliar, ne si difende.
The ninth canto tells the story of Arcite 's falling under his
horse. In this book, Emilia appears more as a character than
she has yet done in the story. She sees the unfortunate acci-
dent from where she is, and is stunned and terrified, pale as
one who is carried to his bier (ix, 10). She laments to herself
the brevity of her happiness (n, 12) but she, along with the
queen and others, goes into the lists and tries to comfort and
aid Arcite (16). Moved by the pitiable sight, she can scarcely
restrain her grief, and within herself she curses Love, who has
placed her in such sorrow (18). She cannot keep back the tears
and her visage changes (19).
After Arcite has been brought to himself, at the solicitation
of Theseus, Emilia modestly tries to console the wounded hero,
tenderly assuring him of her sorrow and of her affectionate re-
gard for him (27). As Arcite rides back to the city in triumph,
she sits beside him (32), conducting herself with modesty, her
beauty being praised by all (40). After the triumphal procession
reaches the palace and Arcite is placed on a bed, Emilia, together
with Hippolita and the other ladies, exerts herself in comforting
the stricken man (49).
According to the agreement before the fight, the conquered
rival was to place himself at the mercy of Emilia. It now be-
comes her duty to pass judgment upon Palamon. As he kneels
before her (63), he begs her to condemn him to death (64).
She listens, moved with pity, and with difficulty refrains from
244 COURTLY LOVE
weeping (65). She appears here to the best possible advantage,
tender, delicate in feeling, and lovable. She assures Palamon
gently but firmly that, if the gods had decreed that she should
love him, she would have done so with true devotion (66). But
since she is Arcite's alone, she can give no comfort to his rival's
amorous pains (67, 68). She begs him to look for another love
(69) and she assures him that she feels no inclination to condemn
him to death. She then gives him a ring, a sword, a new horse,
and other gifts, and bids him win glory with them (75).
In the death scene of Arcite, Emilia is a touching and pathetic
figure, in her genuine grief and despair. She reproaches herself
as the cause of all this woe, since she is the object of the god's
wrath (xi, 67), which had been shown before in the death of
Achates (a former suitor). Why do they not visit their wrath
upon her rather than upon Arcite ? She curses the day she was
born (70), and declares that she will not remain in life long
after Arcite (71). Now she understands the unfavorable omens
which she saw while sacrificing to Diana (72). And now
Arcite asks her, after his death to marry Palamon this is too
much to think of ; rather will she serve Diana the rest of her days
(76-79), for she has brought nothing but sorrow, first to Achates
and then to Arcite himself. If Theseus will have her marry,
let him send her to one among his enemies, in order that the
disasters that attend her may fall upon them (80). Then, weep-
ing, she kisses Arcite for the last time, and falls in a swoon (83).
The whole scene is one of the most genuine in the work in its
pathos and tenderness.
In the eleventh canto we see Emilia lamenting for the dead
hero (5), and later applying the torch to the funeral pile.
The twelfth tells how, at the command of Theseus, Emilia
marries Palamon, although she mildly protests that she feels
bound to serve Diana, since vengeance had been brought upon
Arcite on account of her not remaining true to the goddess, as
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 245
she had promised. We see her for the last time at the wedding,
in all the glory of her heavenly beauty.
From this synopsis it is apparent that Chaucer, in his presen-
tation of Emilia, has sacrificed much in his original that is beau-
tiful and attractive. We may feel certain that Chaucer himself
appreciated the beauty of Emilia's character as Boccaccio por-
trays her ; we may be sure, too, that as an artist he deemed it
necessary to make the sacrifice he did. In fact, it is clear that
all three of the changes enumerated above, which the poet has
made in his original, and not the least, the change in the char-
acter of Emilia, conduce to one end. By the abridgment of
the tale, Boccaccio's diffuseness is avoided ; by the sharp dis-
tinction drawn between the characters of Palamon and Arcite,
attention is directed to them ; and by leaving Emilia a bright
and lovely picture, yet on the whole characterless, the same
effect of concentrating the reader's mind on the two cousins is
obtained. The total result is that which Chaucer was, doubtless,
aiming at : namely, to heighten the impression that the love
passion of the two heroes was not only earnest but absolutely
1 Perhaps no other poem of Chaucer's shows the poet's ability to infuse life
into commonplaces more than the Knighfs Tale. We have seen above the
large number of absolutely conventional ideas which he employed in telling the
story. We may note, too, that as far as concerns the love language of the poem,
little else but conventional language has been used. Notwithstanding this, and
notwithstanding the fact that his purpose is not to treat the subject of love for
its own sake, he has contrived to leave the reader with the impression that both
the lovers were burning with a fervent passion for Emilia. This impression is
heightened, of course, by the events in the narrative, the risks run by Arcite
in returning to Athens, the combat in the wood, and other details of the story.
But it is by the judicious combination of conventional ideas with such incidents,
and with remarks and comment, that the poet displays his genius and vitalizes
the dead conventions of love poetry. That the author of the Canterbury
Tales should show such ability is not astonishing. But the failure of many
contemporary poets, who were using the same conventions, to get into
their poetry any effect of genuineness, brings into bolder relief the genius
246 COURTLY LOVE
In this feature it must be acknowledged, I think, that the
English poet has improved greatly upon the Italian original.
While passion, and that in abundance, is not wanting in Boc-
caccio's poem, there is about this passion an evenness, a certain
lack of warmth, one might almost say a placidity, which make
it seem artificial. 1 Such an impression Chaucer has entirely over-
come ; and in so doing, he has accomplished in a much more
effective manner his purpose of showing the conflict between
the love and the friendship of Palamon and Arcite.
The Nonne Preestes Tale
We have already had examples in this study in which Chaucer
employed the conventions of the courtly love poetry for humor-
ous purposes. In the Nonne Preestes Tale we find the same
clever use of these ideas. The poet ascribes to Pertelote those
qualities and characteristics which were expected of the lady in
conventional love affairs :
Curteys she was, discreet and debonaire,
And compaignable, and bar herself . . . faire.
She was also fair, so fair, indeed, that
she hath the herte in hold
Of Chauntecleer loken in every lith.
The most interesting use of conventional ideas in the poem
is found in the words of Pertelote, in which she tells Chauntecleer
what kind -of a husband a woman likes :
For certes, what so any womman seith,
We alle desyren, if it mighte be,
To han housbondes hardy, wyse, and free,
And secree, and no nigard, ne no fool, . . .
Ne noon avauntour . . .
1 For a judicious criticism and comparison of the two versions, Italian and
English, as regards this point, and as regards the improvement made by Chau-
cer throughout, see Warton, History of English Poetry, III, 308-310.
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 247
These were the qualities demanded of courtly lovers from the
time of Andreas on. Considering the connotations of the words
" secree " and " avauntour " in the courtly love, it is a delightful
bit of humor in the poet to have Pertelote demand of her hus-
band (!) that he be secret and that he be not a boaster of favors
The Squieres Tale
In the early part of this tale where is described the merriment
at the house of Cambinskan, the poet makes some use of con-
ventional love language. For example :
Now dauncen lusty Venus children dere.
The line contains the idea that Venus is the goddess of Love
and of lovers ; and " lusty Venus children " means nothing
more than " lovers." Reference to the service of the love deity,
and to the gaiety which was demanded of a lover, is found in
the lines :
He moste han knowen Love and his servyse,
And ben a festlich man as fresh as May.
Secrecy in love affairs is hinted at in the lines :
Who coude telle yow the forme of daunces,
So uncouthe and so fresshe countenaunces,
Swich subtil loking and dissimulinges
For drede of jalouse mennes aperceyvinges ?
We have already had instances of Chaucer's portrayal of false
lovers; for example, in the Anelida and Arcite and in several of
the individual poems of the Legend. In every case the deceiver,
who pretends to be in earnest, acts in all respects the courtly
lover's part. The Squieres Tale furnishes one more example
of this type. Though he was a hypocrite, yet to the falcon the
pretender appeared to be true. She tells Canace of the impres-
sion he made upon her when he came a-wooing. He seemed to
248 COURTLY LOVE
her a " welle of gentilesse " ; he showed " humble chere " and
a "hewe of trouthe," " plesaunce," " busy peyne."
Right so this god of love, this ypocrite,
Doth so his cerimonies and obeisaunces,
And kepeth in semblant alle his observaunces
That sowneth into gentillesse of love.
In the lines quoted it is interesting to note once more, along
with the conventional love ideas, the transfer of terms of religion
In the further description of their relations, the falcon tells
of the tercelet's "service" (524), of his humility (544), of his
reverence for her (545), of his obedience, and of his " truth,"
all of which characterized the courtly lover in his position
of inferiority before the lady.
Finally, she speaks of the tercelet as being " gentil born, fresh,
and gay, goodly for to seen, humble and free," all of which
were the regular qualities ascribed to the courtly lover.
The Franklin 's Tale
The situation in the love affair of the Franklin's Tale is pre-
cisely that bf the accounts of many of the troubadours. Here
is a woman who is married, and happily married too, to a knight ;
but her beauty inflames another man with passion. He suffers
in silence as long as he can bear it ; then he mentions his love
to her and begs for her favor. The end of his love is purely
physical gratification, and she recognizes the fact and listens
patiently to his requests. But unlike the ladies in most of the
early stories Dorigen does not grant the desired favors to the
importunate lover. This feature may have been in the original
" lay " from which Chaucer professes to have taken his story.
If it was not, the poet has departed from what may be called
the more usual plan of such stories for the special purpose of
putting before the reader a picture of the ideal love of man and
ELEMENT OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S WORKS 249
wife. For the real interest in the tale is not in the love story
of Aurelius, or in the wooing of Dorigen by Arveragus, but in
the discussion of the question of " sovereignty" which the Wife
of Bath had started a short time before.
In those episodes which deal with love the usual conventional
ideas are employed. The familiar winged god is mentioned in
' ' Whan maistrie comth, the god of love anon
Beteth hise winges and farewel ! he is gon !
The conventional secrecy in love affairs is observed by Aurelius.
Of this matere he dorste no word seyn.
Under his brest he bar it more secree
Than ever dide Pamphilus for Galathee ;
His brest was hool, withoute for to sene,
But in his herte ay was the arwe kene.
The lover, as usual, is his lady's servant. Arveragus, it is said,
loved and dide his payne
To serve a lady in his beste wyse ;
and at last, this lady for his "worthinesse " and for his "obey-
saunce " had pity on him and accepted him as her husband.
Whereupon he swore that he would never take upon himself
the " maistrye " over her,
But hir obeye, and folwe hir wil in al
As any lovere to his lady shal.
The idea of the lover's fear to speak his love to his lady
appears in the lines :
For she was oon the faireste under sonne,
And eek therto come of so heigh kinrede,
That wel unnethes dorste this knight, for drede,
Telle hir his wo, his peyne, and his distresse.
Similarly, though Aurelius loved Dorigen better than any other
creature for two years,
never dorste he telle hir of his grevaunce ;
Withouten coppe he drank al his penaunce.
250 COURTLY LOVE
As the love of Aurelius for Dorigen was unsuccessful, there
are many statements devoted to this lover's woes and sorrows
and amorous pains. He made songs, complaints, roundels, and
virelays in which he lamented
that he dorste not his sorwe telle
But languissheth as a furie dooth in helle ;
And dye he moste, ... as dide Ekko.
He addresses his lady :
Madame, reweth upon my peynes smerte
For with a word ye may me sleen or save.
When she puts on him the task of removing the rocks along
the shore, recognizing the impossibility of his performing it,
He to his hous is goon with sorweful herte ;
He seeth he may nat fro his deeth asterte.
Him semed that he felte his herte colde ;
For verray wo out of his wit he breyde.
His brother puts him to bed, where
In languor and in torment furious
Two yeer and more lay wrecche Aurelius
Er any foot he mighte on erthe goon.
Here again, in the case of the Franklin s Tale, the examples
quoted do not comprise all the conventions of which Chaucer
has made use. But they are enough to show that, as a basis for
the love stories involved in the narrative, he has employed noth-
ing but ideas which had been long familiar in love literature.
Further comment on the tale seems unnecessary. Working with
the courtly commonplaces, the poet has so managed them as to
make the story real. Aurelius's passion appears as genuine and
earnest as is the grief which Dorigen feels at being forced to be
untrue to her husband.
With the Franklins Tale, Chaucer's employment of the
courtly-love ideas ceases. One question now suggests itself, an
answer to which would be very interesting, were it possible to
get it : " What was Chaucer's own attitude toward these con-
ceptions, of which he made such a large use in his poetry ? "
The writer wishes to state frankly that he does not believe it is
possible to answer this question finally and definitely. It is diffi-
cult to tell what Chaucer's ideas are on any subject, so predomi-
nantly dramatic is his poetic work. Indeed, the question just
stated would not be raised, were it not that others have felt that
they could see in the poet's works evidence of a spirit of irony
and satire against the courtly ideas. We have already, in connec-
tion with our study of Pandarus, considered the opinions of Ebert
and ten Brink upon this subject. Another expression, more
recent, and more cautious, is the following : " His [Chaucer's]
attitude towards the chivalric ideal of love was, upon the whole, a
critical one." 1 Still later, certain remarks of Mr. Tatlock 2 seem
to indicate that he sees in the Knight's Tale a tendency on the
part of the poet to poke fun at the courtly love therein portrayed.
But all such statements seem to be unwarranted, and Mr. Tatlock,
oddly enough, himself supplies the corrective for them. He
says, in the connection just noted : " Satire is easier to suspect
than to prove, especially in a poem written when ideas of what
is ludicrous and the connotations of words were so different from
1 Billings, Middle English Metrical Romances, New York, 1901, p. xxxi.
2 Chron. and DeveL, Appendix C, pp. 232-233.
252 COURTLY LOVE
what they are now." 1 We cannot say that Chaucer did not
laugh to himself at some of the vagaries of lovers of his time.
But we may suspect that the actions of courtly lovers then were
no more ridiculous than are the actions of lovers of our day to
people with a lively sense of humor. Extravagant as the courtly
love may seem to us, this was the only kind of love there was
at that period (except the grosser passion of the fabliaux which
we do not consider here). Only in so far as love is always a fit
subject for satire, was the chivalrous love ridiculous in an age
when chivalrous ideas obtained.
But, aside from the question as to Chaucer's inclination to
display levity at the extravagance of lovers, the most casual
consideration of his poems will show the improbability of his
deliberately satirizing the courtly love. In all the early lyric
poems, which are purely conventional in both sentiment and
language, there is nothing that remotely suggests satire or irony.
And the same is true of those later lyric poems, where there is
indeed fun in full measure. The Book of the Duchess abounds,
as we have seen, in the courtly ideas and sentiments. Yet far from
satirizing these ideas, the poet uses them to pay a graceful and
delicate compliment to his patron. Consider again the Parla-
ment of Foules. Here, if anywhere in the whole range of Chau-
cer's poetry, we might feel justified in saying that the courtly
ideas were being satirized if we judge entirely from the con-
tents of the poem. Nothing can be plainer than that the goose
and the duck openly ridiculed the courtly sentiments of the
royal tercelet. But are we to identify Chaucer with the goose
and the duck ? Clearly not. The occasion which the poem was
written to celebrate (and scholars agree that it has reference to
the courtship of the royal couple) precludes the possibility of any
satirical purpose on the part of the author. We have already
examined the sympathetic treatment of the chivalrous love in
1 Chron. and Devel., Appendix C, p. 233.
the Troilus, and there is no more indication of satire in the
Knights Tale. Levity there may be ; of fun there is plenty.
But to say that there is irony in the description of the courtly
love of Palamon and Arcite is unwarranted by anything in the
What then is Chaucer's attitude toward this love, judging from
his poetry ? All we are justified in saying is that he used the
courtly ideas, as he used every element of the life about him, for
artistic purposes. If love is ridiculed anywhere, it is done by
some one of the poet's characters. And we have no right to
say that the sentiments expressed by any character are those of
the poet himself. We cannot justly say even, as one writer
above quoted has said, that Chaucer's attitude toward the chival-
rous love is a critical one. It is enough to say, and it detracts
nothing from the glory of our poet, that in treating this material
he has maintained the detachment of a poetic artist, and has been
unconcerned about giving his own opinions.
A recognition of this makes short and easy the task of sum-
marizing the results of this investigation. We have observed
that both Gower and Chaucer in their treatment of love employed
ideas which had been present in erotic literature from the time
of the troubadours. These ideas Gower took as he found them,
as many another poet did before him, and lacking the ability to
impress them with his own individuality he left them unchanged.
The language employed to set them forth was conventional
throughout. The figures of the lovers whom Gower wishes to
portray he does succeed in endowing with some degree of life
and human quality. But his lack of imagination impoverishes
his poetry, and his tendency to moralize has the grotesque result
of making Gower the man elbow out of place Gower the artist.
With Chaucer, the opposite of all this is true. In his hands, in
some manner which defies analysis, the old love conventions be-
come the poet's own. The language he uses to give expression
254 COURTLY LOVE
to the passion of love is clever, forceful, and inevitable. His
characters live before us as real people. In his maturity, he
shows himself always the poet of genius, under whose magic
touch commonplaces are transformed and become alive. In a
word, in his use of the courtly-love ideas, as in all his work,
Chaucer the artist is brilliantly revealed, even though we see
but little of Chaucer the man.
id, 120, 222 note
Against Women Unconstant, 98
Altenglische Dichtungen des Ms. Har-
leian 2253, 40 note
Ancren Riwle, 40 note, 86
Andreas Capellanus, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 13
note, 15, 18, 28, 29, 30, 33, 50, 62,
63, 65, 69, 71, 115, 1 26 note, 129,
131, 156, 233
Anecdotes, Historiques, Legendes et
Apologues, 203 note
Anelida and Arcite, 91, 107-108, 121
Ariadne, Legend of, 228-229
Ars Amatoria, 3, 4, 26 note, 27 note
Ayenbite of Iniuit, 45
Balade of Complaint, 99
Balade to Rosemounde, 102103
Bedier, De Nicolao Museto, 5 note
Benoit de Ste. Maure, 142 note, 160
Bernart de Ventadorn, i, 3, n, 12, 71
Bestiary of Philip of Thaun, 126 note
Billings, Middle English Metrical Ro-
mances, 251 note
Boccaccio, in, 122, 129, 134, 141,
142, 143, 146 note, 147, 150, 160,
204, 238, 245
Bone Florence de Rome, La, 201
Book of Curtesye, 202 note
Book of the Duchess, 91, 108, 109-118,
1 19, 130, 145, 146 note, 199 note, 252
Book of the Knight of La Tour Landry,
Canterbury Tales, 91, 140, 231, 232-249
Canticum de Creatione, 196 note
Carmen de variis in amore passionibus
breviter compilatum, 78
Cent Balades, Les, 34-37, 128
Chastiement des Dames, 34 note
Chatelain de Coucy, Le, 180
Chaucer, 6, 33, 34, 45, 61, 91-254
Child, English and Scottish Popular
Ballads, 201 note
Chretien de Troies, 2, 3, 9, 13-15, 17,
J 9> 3 3 J 77> 78, no, 115, 129,
Cinkante Balades, 38, 39-42, 98
Clef d 1 Amours, Le, 127 note
Cleopatra, Legend of , 215-218
Complaint d 1 Amours, 99
Complaint of Mars, 91, 105-107
Complaint of Venus, 9598
Complaint to His Lady, 93-95
Complaint to His Purse, 103-105
Complaint to Pity, 57 note, 92-93, 95
Concile de Remiremont, 18, 213
Confessio Amantis, 38, 42-90, 100, ill
Confessions of Saint Augustine, 203
Consolation of Philosophy, 205
Conte de la Charrette, 2
Cook, The Character of Criseyde, 155
note, 161 note
Cortois and Vilain, 26 note, 127 note
Coulton, Chaucer and His England,
100 note, 1 1 6 note, 239 note
Courthope, History of English Poetry,
Courts of Love, 2, 4 note
Dante, 199, 203
De Arte Honeste Amandi, 3
De Excidio Troiae Historia, 142 note
De Planctu Naturae, 44, in, 126 note
De Rerum Natura, 208 note
Des Vilains et des Courtois, 127
Deschamps, 33, 93, 100 note, 122 note,
Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,
Dido, Legend of, 215-218
Dit dou Vergier, 82
2 5 6
Dit du Lion, 117
Dowden, A History of French Litera-
ture^ 32 note
Ebert, Review of Sandras's "Etude sur
Chaucer" 143 note, 178 note
Eleanor of Aquitaine, i, 5, 12, 136
Envoy to Scogan, 103105
Ermengarde of Narbonne, 5
Fablel dou Dieu d 1 Amours, 19, 127
Fasti, 227 note
Filostrato, 140, 146 note, 148 note, 150
note, 195, 204 note, 207, 209 note
Florance and Blancheflor, 19, 127 note,
Fontaine d 1 Amours, La, 79 note
Franklin's Tale, \ 14 note, 248-250, 251
Froissart, 33, 72, 100 note, 180
Gower, 33, 38-90, in, 115, 117, 253
Granson, 33, 95, 98
Guillaume de Lorris, 21, 24, 29
Handlynge Synne, 45
Heroides, 222 note, 231 note
Histoire et Cronicque dii Petit Jehan de
Saintrl et de la Jeune Dame des
Belles Cousines, 61 note, u6note
Historia Trojana, 223
House of Fame, 90, 108, 118-121, 122,
221, 222, 223
Hueline and Eglantine, 128 note
Hymn to Venus, 207
Hypermnestra, Legend of , 230231
Hypsipyle and Medea, Legends of., 2.2.2,-
Jean de Conde, 127, 214
Jean le Seneschal, 34
Jugement dou Roy de Behaigne, Le,
37 note, no, in note, 128
Jugement dou Roy de Navarre, Le, 82,
Ker, Essays on Medieval Literature,
41 note, 42 note, 89 note
Kissner, Chaucer in seinen Beziehungen
zur italienischen Litteratur, 1 42 note,
143 note, 148 note, 150, 178, 179
Kittredge, The Date of Chaucer's
Troilus, 38 note
Knight of Courtesy and the Fair Lady
of Faguel, The, 7 note
Knighfs Tale, 234-246, 251, 253
Koch, The Chronology of Chaucer's
Writings, 100 note
Langlois, Origines et Sources du
Roman de la Rose, 7 note, 18 note
Lay Folks' Mass Book, 194 note, 197
Legend of Good Women, 6, 44, 82, 91,
108, 119, 122, 196, 208-232, 247
Legouis, Chaucer, 137 note
Leopold Shakspere, 155 note
Liber de Dono Perseverantiae, 195 note
Liber Soliloquiorum, 193 note, 194
Lives of the Troubadours, The, 7 note,
1 2 note
Livre du Voir-Dit, 100 note
Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, 100
note, 21 5 note, 216 note
Lowell, Conversations on Some of the
Old Poets, nSnote
Lucretia, Legend of, 226-228
Machaut, 33, 34, 37 note, 82, 93, 100
note, in, 116, 117, 180
Mahn, Die Werke der Troubadours,
13 note, 101 note
Man of Lawe's Tale, 85 note
Manuel des Pechies, 44 note, 45
Marie of Champagne, i, 2, 5, 32, 34, 136
Merciles Beaut e, 101-102
Messe des Oiseaus, La, 214
Metamorphoses, 218 note, 230 note
Mirour de POmme, 38, 73, 74 note
Monk's Tale, 152 note
Mott, System of Courtly Love, 2, 10
Neilson, The Origin and Sources of
"The Court of Love," 4, 37 note, 122
note, 2ii note, 214 note
Nonne Preestes Tale, 246-247
Oratio ad Erasmum, 195 note
Ovid, 3, 4, 5, 15, 16, 17, 26, 27, 36, 218,
222,225, 226, 227, 228, 230, 231
Pamphihis de Amore, 17
Paradiso, 199 note, 203
Paradys d>Amottrs, 72 note
Paris, G., La Littlrature Francaise au
Moyen Age, i, 2, 4, 29 note, 32 note ;
La Poesie du Moyen Age, 3,4,34 note ;
Origines de la Poesie Lyrique au
Moyen Age, 7 note
Parliament of Fowls, 91, 119, 121-128,
Persones Tale, 45, 68 note, 69 note, 74
note, 86 note, 195 note, 198 note
Philomela, Legend of, 229-230
Phyllis, Legend of, 230
Phyllis and Flora, 82 note
Plato, Timaeus, 205
Prick of Conscience, 45, 202 note
Prologue to Canterbury Tales, 202 note,
Prologue to Legend of Good Women, 208-
Pyramus and Tkisbe, Legend of, 218-
Raimond de Miraval, 10 note
Rambaud d'Orange, 112 note
Rambaut de Vanqueiras, 13 note
Raynouard, Choix des Poesies Origi-
nates des Troiibadours, 10 note
Richard Rolle, 40
Roman de Troie, 142 note
Romance of the Rose, 21-33, 44' 45 note >
64 note, 68, 79, 80, 82, 94, 109, 114,
127 note, 181, 212, 213, 233
Romances of the Round Table, 2, 3, 4
Root, The Poetry of Chaucer, 136 note,
142 note, 145, 161 note, 171 note,
Saint-Didier, G. de, 10 note, n note
Seconds Nonnes Tale, 200 note
Somme des Vices et des Vertus, Le, 45
Somnium Scipionis, 122
Squieres Tale, 247-248
SyTpherd,StuJitsin the "Hous of Fame,"
i6note, io8note, 119 note, 128 note
Ten Brink, History of English Litera-
ture, 85 note, 154 note; Studien, 152
Teseide, in note, 122, 238
Trial Forewords, 100 note, 107 note,
Triamour, Sir, 7 note
Troilus and Criseyde, 7 note, 61, 68
note, 72 note, 91, 104 note, n6note,
119, 122, i25note, 129-208, 209, 211,
213, 214, 231, 253
Venus la Deesse d? Amour, 19, 20, 213
Vita Sancti Cristofori, 196 note
Warton, History of English Poetry,
234 note, 246 note
Watriquet de Couvin, 79 note
Wechssler, Frauendienst und Vasal-
litdt, 1 1 note
Wife of Bath, 7 note
William d' Amiens, 101 note
Womanly Noblesse, 99
Woohing of Our Lord, 40 note
Wright, Womankind in Western Eu-
rope, 1 80 note
)JE INSTITUTE OF MEDIAEVAL
(0 ELMSLEY PLACE
TORONTO 6, CANADA,